Amid rising disquiet in the wake of Mullaiperiyar dam level touching 136 ft on Saturday night following copious rainfall in Kerala, the Supreme Court on Monday directed the Supervisory Committee to take an immediate and firm decision on the maximum water level that can be maintained in the dam, opened in 1895. The dam is located in Kerala’s Idukki district but is operated by the Tamil Nadu government.
A bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and CT Ravikumar reportedly ordered, “We direct all authorities concerned to interact urgently and Committee to take a decision as to water level to be maintained.”
Instead of debating here, do something constructive there. Everyone has to work seriously and sincerely. This isn’t a political arena where you’ll debate, it’s about people’s lives. It’s due to the inaction of one party or other that we have to interfere, Justice Khanwilkar orally observed, according to Live Law.
The bench then posted the matter for Wednesday.
It may be noted that the Supreme Court had in May 2014 allowed Tamil Nadu to maintain the water level up to 142 ft twice a year despite Kerala asking the water level to be maintained at 136 ft.
The supervisory committee’s powers and functions include supervising the restoration of FRL (Full Reservoir Level) in the Mullaiperiyar Dam to the elevation of 142 ft.
Amid safety concerns in Kerala, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday wrote to his Tamil Nadu counterpart M.K.Stalin seeking to draw water from the dam.
“At present there is a net inflow of around 2,109 cusecs accumulating in the reservoir even after the diversion from Tamil Nadu side. With the current inflow it is feared that the reservoir level may reach 142 ft once the torrential rain intensifies. Hence, there would arise an urgent need for the gradual release of water from Mullaperiyar dam through the tunnel to Tamil Nadu,” Vijayan said in his letter.
Vijayan sought Stalin’s timely intervention in the matter and requested him to give immediate directions to the authorities concerned to ensure that maximum quantity of water is drawn from Mullaperiyar Dam through the tunnel to Vaigai Dam and to gradually release the water downstream.
He also requested to intimate the Kerala government about the opening of the shutters at least 24 hours in advance in order to take precautionary measures for ensuring the safety of the people living downstream of the dam.
In the letter, Vijayan also pointed out that when the water level reached 133.45 ft on October 18, the Kerala state Chief Secretary and other officials held meetings to ensure safety and security of the people.
Meanwhile, Keralites flooded Tamil Nadu chief minister Stalin’s Facebook page with demands to withdraw water from the dam. Moreover, social media has been abuzz with campaigns terming the Mullaperiyar dam as unsafe and demanding construction of a new dam at the earliest. The social media campaigns began after the water level in the reservoir rose in the wake of heavy rain in the dam’s catchment areas.
On Monday morning Pinarayi Vijayan warned of legal action against those who create panic over the Mullaperiyar dam through social media. Responding to a calling attention motion by MM Mani in the Assembly, Vijayan said there was no cause for concern over Mullaperiyar dam at present.
“A section of people in social media are giving the impression that the dam is in danger and that lakhs of people are going to die. Strict legal action will be taken against such false propaganda,” he said.
Vijayan noted that the state government has a clear stance on the Mullaperiyar issue. The state wants a new dam. However, the Centre does not support this stance. Despite this, the state will persist with its demand for a new dam, he said.
“The Tamil Nadu government is cooperating with us on various issues. However, there are some areas where we have differences of opinion. We will hold discussions with Tamil Nadu and resolve all issues,” he added.