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TN, Kerala CMs talk on Mullaperiyar issue

The CMs fail to reach an accord though they will hold talks at the ministerial level within a fortnight, reports Shekhar Iyer.

india Updated: Nov 29, 2006 18:32 IST

As directed by the Supreme Court, Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala on Wednesday held talks on their dispute over increasing the height of the Mullaperiyar dam in Kerala in the presence of Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz.

But they failed to reach an accord though they agreed to hold talks again at the ministerial level, within a fortnight.

At the ninety-minute long meeting, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi shot down his Kerala counterpart VS Achuthanandan’s proposal for building a new dam to resolve the problem of the safety of the 112-year-old dam on the west-flowing Periyar river.

Karunanidhi said Tamil Nadu had completed all the major strengthening works with the concurrence of Kerala and quoted experts to claim the dam was safe and there was no need for any doubt on that aspect.

He argued that raising the water level in the dam to 142 ft was absolutely necessary to irrigate the lands in about two lakh acres in the drought prone southern TN districts of Theni, Dindigul, Madurai, Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram.

On his part, Achuthanandan said a new, modern, technically sound dam should be constructed by keeping in mind both the safety concerns as well as availability of water for Tamil Nadu.

"The safety concerns that we technologically address in this dam would take care of seismic activities and their impact on the dam."

He argued that the storage level of the dam should not be raised beyond 136 ft as any higher storage might prove detrimental to the safety of the dam which was constructed in 1895. Any breach in the dam would submerge at least four districts and affect 3.5 million people.

The Kerala CM said the dam was built with rubble and was constructed at a time when the technology for building dams was much inferior to the present day technology. "Normally for a dam of this nature the life span is only 50 years."

Countering his view, Karunanidhi said,"The dam has been designed to withstand the effect of the earthquakes anticipated. When such is the position, I think we are not doing any justice by thrusting an opinion in the minds of the public, that the dam may burst if the water level is raised to 142 ft."

The Tamil Nadu CM "I would like to convey that the safety of the people living downstream of the Periyar Dam will not be compromised under any circumstances by Tamil Nadu government."

Achuthanandan told the media later that the meeting was "effective and friendly." Tamil Nadu Works Minister said there was "progress of the talks," but said the discussion was "inconclusive."

Soz said the meeting was held in a "dignified and cordial" mannner with both the sides expressing their viewpoints.

First Published: Nov 29, 2006 18:32 IST