Panel to examine dam safety

Tags: News
The Union cabinet chaired by prime minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday approved setting up a supervisory committee on the Mullaperiyar dam to implement May 7 Supreme Court directive.

The three-member supervisory committee will look into safety issues concerning raising the dam’s height to 142 ft from the present 136 ft, an official statement said.

The Mullaperiyar dam has been a bone of contention between the two southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The supervisory committee is being set up to look after the safety of the structure and increasing the full reservoir level to 142 ft.

A senior member of central water commission will head the three-member panel. One member each will be inducted from Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

The Supreme Court had directed the setting up of the committee while holding the dam to be safe. It had allowed Tamil Nadu government to raise the water level to 142 ft and ultimately to 152 ft after completion of strengthening measures on the dam.

For Tamil Nadu, Mullaperiyar dam and the diverted Periyar waters act as lifeline for southern districts of Theni, Madurai, Sivaganga and Ramnad, providing water for irrigation, drinking and also for generating power in the lower Periyar power station.

However, Kerala has taken the position that the dam poses safety concerns to its people in the event of a collapse. Kerala had proposed decommissioning of the dam and construction of a new dam. This was, however, challenged by TN.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by chief justice RM Lodha had struck down a law promulgated by Kerala government declaring Mullaperiyar dam as endangered and fixing the water level at 136 ft.

Although the dam is located on the Periyar river in Kerala, it is operated by the Tamil Nadu government based on a 999-year lease agreement with the former British government to irrigate farmlands on its side.

TN has insisted on raising the water level in the dam to 142 ft, pointing out crop failures. Between ’80 and ’05, a whopping Rs 40,000 crore was claimed to have been lost after the dam’s height was lowered. Kerala maintains that this is not true.

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