Kerala-TN dam dispute heightens

TRIVANDRUM - Kerala on Monday made a strong pitch for decommissioning the 116-year-old Mullapperiyar dam with people from all walks of life joining protests against the Tamil Nadu’s opposition to the demand. The dam poses threat to four million people living on the downstream

By (T.K. Devasia)

Published: Tue 29 Nov 2011, 9:21 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 12:28 AM

While the Members of Parliament, cutting across party lines, staged a sit-in in the Parliament House complex in New Delhi seeking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s immediate intervention on the issue, the ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front and the opposition Left Democratic Front observed a dawn to dusk shutdown in Idukki district.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has called a similar strike on Tuesday in the four districts of Idukki, Kottayam, Alappuzha and Ernakulam that would be hit most in the eventual collapse of the dam allegedly built with low quality construction materials to supply irrigation water to the neighbouring state.

The shutdown called in Idukki was total as all shops and business establishments across the district remained closed and vehicles kept off the roads. People in several places blocked roads. In some places, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was burnt in effigy.

Two legislators from the district have also joined the protests. Roshi Augustine launched a satyagrha in front of office of the Accountant General. Bijimol, another legislator, is already sitting on an indefinite fast in the district.

Film Director Renjith boycotted the state film awards function at Calicut on Monday in the light of the mounting protests. He said that he will accept the awards announced for his film ‘Pranchiyettian’ only after the Mullapperiyar issue was solved. People also unleashed their fury on federal ministers from the state for their alleged failure to take up the issue with the highest authorities.

They took out marches to the residence of federalDefence Minister A K Antony at Trivandrum and that of K V Thomas in Cochin. Left activists shouted slogans against the prime minister and even Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

Antony told reporters in New Delhi on Monday that he was doing everything possible to solve the issue. He said that he had met Federal Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and stressed the need for urgent federal intervention. Two junior ministers K C Venugopal and K V Thomas met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and urged her intervention. All the ministers from the state are also scheduled to meet the prime minister jointly soon.

Kerala Disaster Management Minister Thiruvanchiyoor Radhakrishnan and Water Resources Minister P J Joseph have also arrived in Delhi to present the all-party meeting’s demand for reducing the level of water in the reservoir to 120 feet immediately to avert a tragedy. Meanwhile, heavy rains in the past three days have taken the water level in the reservoir beyond the permissible storage limit of 136 ft. The level rose from 136 ft on Sunday to 135 4 ft on Monday, raising panic among the people.

With the rise in the water level, all the 13 spillways of the dam have been opened. The district administration has issued a high alert to those living on the banks of the Periyar River.

Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been at loggerhead over the Mullaperiyar dam, built in Idukki under an 1886 agreement between the then Maharaja of Travancore and the erstwhile British Raj. The dispute arose after Tamil Naidu raised a demand for raising height of the dam from the present 136 ft to 146 ft to ensure more water to the state.

Kerala opposed the demand saying that the dam built with low quality construction materials 116 years ago cannot withstand alterations and additions. The state proposed a new dam in its place assuring the same level of water to TN.

However, the TN Chief Minister has termed the Kerala fears unfounded. She accused the political in the state of trying to whip up passions and urged the prime minister not to accede to the state’s demand.

Meanwhile, Revenue Minister K M Mani sounded a warning to Tamil Nadu saying that the state will decommission the dam and build a new one if they were not ready to read the concerns of the people. He also reminded the neighbouring state that the agreement had provision to cancel the accord in the event of violation of its terms. He said that the Tamil Nadu has been violating several terms with impunity.

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