Chandy to meet PM over Mullaperiyar dam issue

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Oommen Chandy
Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 1: Seeking urgent Central initiative on the vexed Mullaperiyar Dam issue, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today and stress on the importance of holding early talks between the state and Tamil Nadu to defuse the crisis.

Chandy will leave for New Delhi this afternoon to meet the Prime Minister.

A special meeting of the state cabinet late last night decided to convene an urgent one-day sitting of the Assembly on December 9 to discuss the issue and adopt a resolution reinforcing the state's proposal for building a new dam in place of the 116-year-old structure, which posed a grim threat to over 3 million people in the downstream districts.

Exuding confidence that his Delhi trip would be fruitful, Chandy told reporters that even Tamil Nadu appeared to have understood the anxiety of Kerala whose slogan on the issue was "water to Tamil Nadu and safety to Kerala."

According to government sources, apart from reiterating the state's stand that a new dam was only the lasting solution to the long-pending dispute, the Chief Minister was expected to take up immediate measures like lowering the water level of the reservoir to 120 feet.

With the dam's catchment areas receiving heavy rains in the last few days, its water level this morning touched 136.5 feet, slightly above the maximum permissible storage level of 136 feet.

Kerala has for long been pressing that the maximum water level should be further reduced since the dam is in a precarious condition. Tamil Nadu has refused to buy that argument.

The LDF, especially its leader V S Achuthanandan, has assumed an aggressive posture over the issue, accusing the Centre of shying away from taking a strong stand on the issue.

The 88-year-old Marxist veteran has announced his plan to observe a one-day fast at Mullaperiyar on December 7 to mobilise public opinion for the cause.

Achuthanandan, who has been a vanguard campaigner on Mullaperiyar issue since 1990s, also urged political parties in Tamil Nadu to refrain from taking a partisan view of the tangle and create an atmosphere for cordial talks.

Citing common cultural and linguistic heritage shared by people of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Achuthanandan said it was the duty of responsible political parties on both sides to bring about a resolution of the issue without allowing it to fester further.

Meanwhile, the indefinite fast launched by CPI MLA at Mullaperiyar entered the fifth day today.

All political parties, cutting across ideological divides, and local outfits and NGOs are continuing their protests over the issue, drawing big crowds in border towns like Kumali.

Speaker of Kerala Assembly G Karthikeyan visited the area this morning and members of the Legislative Committee on Dam Safety would be visiting the area on December 5.

PTI

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