Parambikulam dam leak: Major tragedy averted in Kerala; 2 districts still on alert
Kerala irrigation officials said Tamil Nadu will lose 2,000 million cubic feet of water every day due to the sang, which may affect water supply in several areas
Panic gripped Palakkad and Thrissur districts of Kerala on Wednesday after one of the three shutters of the Parambikulam dam developed snags and automatically opened its entire height of 25 feet, resulting in the release of 20,000 cusecs of water within a second.
Security officials camping in the area noticed the snag at 2 am and immediately informed officials in the two districts, who promptly took measures to relocate people in low-lying areas after sounding an alert.
After the snag, dam authorities were forced to open two remaining shutters to 10 cm each to prevent damage to these shutters in view of the increasing water pressure.
“We heard a loud noise around 2 am and water gushed out with huge force. We immediately alerted officials who later opened two other shutters to ease pressure. Timely intervention averted a major mishap,” said one of the security officials who did not wish to be named. He said that favourable weather conditions and weak rainfall over the last two weeks averted a disaster.
Irrigation engineer K Amruthavalli, camping in the area, said that because the shutter was completely damaged, repair work can be done only after releasing a major chunk of the storage, which will take at least two days.
Though the dam is situated in Palakkad in Kerala, it is managed by Tamil Nadu, and is a major source of water for Coimbatore and other districts in the neighbouring state.
“We are closely monitoring the situation. There is no need to panic, but people living near rivers in the two districts will have to be vigilant,” said state revenue minister K Rajan.
He said that the Tamil Nadu government has been informed about the issue, and the rule curve committee will be summoned to discuss the snag. (Every dam has a rule curve committee that monitors storage of water and maintains upper and lower limits, and other parameters).
After the water reached the nearby Chalakudy river, two shutters of the Peringalkuth dam in Thrissur district were opened, said district collector Haritha V Kumar. She asked people residing near the river to be vigilant and not venture into water bodies for bathing or fishing. Since the stretch is also home to a variety of wild animals, wildlife wardens in the two districts have also been alerted. During the 2018 floods, elephant herds here were trapped in the floods.
“Police and revenue officials reached our house early morning and gave us one hour to relocate. Now, we are lodged in a relief camp,” said P Varghese, one of the people evacuated from the banks of Chalakudy river.
Kerala irrigation officials said Tamil Nadu will lose 2,000 million cubic feet of water every day due to the sang, which may affect water supply in several areas. The maximum storage capacity of the dam is 1,825 feet and a team of experts from the neighbouring state is working overtime to repair the snags in the wheels and belt of the shutters.
Meanwhile, former dam safety authority chairman of Kerala justice (retd) N Ramachandran Nair has blamed Tamil Nadu officials for the issue. “We have alerted them a number of times but they failed to heed our warning,” he said. Tamil Nadu officials are yet to react over the incident.
Environmental activist SP Ravi said timely intervention averted a major mishap and asked authorities to keep a strict vigil on all dams in the state.