Dam facts: Why is TN upset with Kerala over Mullaperiyar?

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Mullaperiyar Dam
When the Kerala government is screaming loud over the danger that could be caused by the alleged obsolete 116-year-old Mullaperiyar dam, on safety grounds of people who live downstream, why is Tamil Nadu defiant to any debate that cites the decommission of the controversial dam? Why is TN upset with Kerala over Mullaperiyar Dam? Is the TN government overlooking the issue for its personal benefits by putting the life of 5 million people at stake?

These are some of the obvious questions that are cropping up in the mind of people as the fight is being escalated between the states with every passing moment. So read further to have a proper understanding on the issue.

Mullaperiyar dam has become the bone of contention between Kerala and Tamil Nadu since a few years. However, the face-off hotted up recently when a report by IIT Roorkee found that an earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale could collapse the dam any time.

If the disaster breaks out, it could cause heavy floods in villages of Kerala such as Vallakadavu, Vandiperiyar, Keerikkara, Mlamala, Chappathu, Upputhara, Ayyappan Kovil, Irattiyar. Furthermore, as many as 30 lakh people could be killed by gushing water. In case of a collapse, it would affect yet another four neighboring dams leaving a dire impact on the lives and property of people.

But, on the other hand, Tamil Nadu has been maintaining a different theory behind the controversy. TN government had alleged that it's a political strategy to take away Mullaperiyar dam rights from the state, which is being benefited by them since 1886. The dam, which is located in the Idukki district of Kerala, serves water to 8 districts of Tamil Nadu.

Recently, Tamil Nadu had demanded to increase the water level from 136 feet (41.5 m) to 142 feet (43 m) to cope with the rising demand of water for irrigation. The demand was refuted by Kerala on the grounds of safety considering the age of the dam. Following the dispute, all the cases related to Mullaperiyar dam were transferred to the Supreme Court, in 1998.

Since then, Kerala has been maintaining its stance on Mullaperiyar dam, that the dam had outlived its safety and longevity. It also proposed the building of a new dam before the existing dam in Idukki. However, it has agreed not to compromise on the supply of water to Tamil Nadu.

The history of the agreement between the states goes to the British period in India. In 1886, British Raj of Madras made a lease agreement with Maharaja of Travancore for 999 years on Mullaperiyar dam. According to the pact, water will be manoeuvred to the British administration of Madras- now Tamil Nadu. Post Independence, the agreement lost its validity, but again in 1970, the agreement was resigned between Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Usually dams are re-constructed after 60 years. The question on the safety of the dam was raised by the Kerala government for the first time in 1979 after a minor earthquake in Idukki. Since then, TN have ruled out the possibility of a mishap caused by the dam.

Later, a number of expert committees which evaluated the Mullaperiyar dam, had confirmed its safety and rejected charges of destruction. Following the growing fear, TN decided to keep the water level to 136 ft. However, after undertaking a number of steps to enhance the capacity of the oldest dam, it claimed that storage level could be raised to full 152 ft.

The apex court in 2006 ruled in favour of TN to increase the water level to the proposed level of 142 ft and asked Kerala not to stop the former state from raising the storage.

Tamil Nadu pleaded a loss of whopping 40,000 crores due to the destruction of crops between 1980 and 2005, during the period when height of the dam was reduced to 136 feet.

Kerala, maintaining its demand, embarked on a survey to figure out proper plots to build the dam and came up with three spots for a new dam. However, the proposal was rejected by Tamil Nadu saying that the construction of new dam has the hidden intention of keeping the dam within the state itself.

OneIndia News

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