Tamil Nadu plans memorial for Mullaperiyar Dam builder

January 9th, 2012 - 12:30 am ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Jan 8 (IANS) Even as a row rages between Tamil Nadu and Kerala over the safety of the Mullaperiyar Dam, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa Sunday announced the construction of a memorial for the century-old dam’s builder, British Colonel John Pennycuick.The memorial will be built at Lower Camp in Theni district.

In a statement issued here, Jayalalithaa said: “In order to show our gratitude to Pennycuick for building the dam, I am happy to announce the construction of memorial with his statue at a cost of Rs.1 crore on 2,500 sq.ft in the Tamil Nadu Electricty Board premises at Lower Camp.”

She said Pennycuick’s grandson will be invited for the inaugural function of the memorial next year.

According to Jayalalithaa, people of the southern Tamil Nadu district had demanded construction of the memorial for Pennycuick as the Mullaperiyar Dam is functioning well till date and would continue to exist for several centuries to come.

She said Pennycuick was sad seeing people of the then Madras Presidency affected by drought as rains failed.

Pennycuick thought out a plan to divert the waters of Periyar river that emptied itself in the Arabian Sea in the West towards East so that lakhs of acres of dry land could be irrigated.

According to Jayalalithaa, a plan was drawn by Pennycuick to form the Periyar Thekkadi Resorvoir from where the water is taken to Vaigai river in Tamil Nadu.

Pennycuick and his team braving rains, wild animals, flash floods completed half the dam in three years when the work had to be stopped due to heavy rains.

The construction work halted as the British Government was not able to allot funds for the project.

Jayalalithaa said Pennycuick, finding the project work stalled, went back to England raised money by selling his own property and completed the dam in 1895 which now irrigates around 223,000 acres in Theni, Dindugul, Madurai, Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram districts.

Stressing the safety of the 116-year-old dam, Jayalalithaa said the dam is built as masonry gravity dam so that it will not be affected by the earth’s tremors.

Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been at loggerheads over the dam, built under an 1886 accord between the then Maharaja of Travancore and the erstwhile British Raj.

While it is located in Kerala, the control of the dam is with Tamil Nadu and its waters serve the state.

Tamil Nadu wants the dam’s storage capacity to be increased from the current 136 feet (41.5 metres) to 142 feet (43 metres) as per a Supreme Court order, while Kerala wants a new dam as the control will be with it.

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