Kerala assembly restates stand on Mullaperiyar Dam

December 9th, 2011 - 6:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 9 (IANS) In a rare unity in the Kerala assembly, the 141-member house Friday unanimously passed a resolution that the central government should sanction a new dam to replace the leaking, masonry Mullaperiyar in Idukki district.

This is the third unanimous resolution passed by the Kerala assembly demanding a new dam. The first was passed in 1993 when K. Karunakaran of the Congress was the chief minister and the next came in 2009 when V.S. Achuthanandan of the CPI-M was heading the state government.

Friday’s session was specially convened just to discuss the dam issue.

When Chief Minister Oommen Chandy read out the resolution that the only way to end the current impasse is a new dam and till that time the water level in the 115-year-old dam be reduced to 120 feet, it was welcomed by all members with the thumping of desks.

As soon as the proceedings began at 9 a.m., Chandy invoked Rule 130 of the assembly for discussing “a grave issue” concerning the state.

The three-and-half hours long debate saw members from both the treasury and opposition benches agreeing that the house was worried about the safety of the over a century old earthen dam as it could endanger the lives of over four million people in and around the five districts near it.

But the debate also witnessed interesting moments.

Water Resources Minister P.J. Joseph, who hails from Idukki district, created a flutter when he said he would not even mind to begin a fast unto death if the central government does not allow a new dam to be built.

“I will undertake the fast unto death at Rajghat (in New Delhi),” Joseph said.

But Speaker G. Karthikeyan intervened and said such things need not be said in the house. The minister then apologised for his remark.

Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan went to the extent of demanding the resignation of Revenue Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan for the remark made by Advocate General K.P. Dandapani in the Kerala High Court last week on the Mullaperiyar Dam.

It was reported in the media that Dandapani had said there was no relation between water level and the safety of the dam. He appeared before the cabinet and pointed out that he never said such a thing.

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. It is located in Kerala and its waters also serve Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu wants the dam’s storage capacity to be increased by raising the dam height from 136 feet (41.5 metre) to 142 feet (43 metre) as the state’s irrigation needs have shot up.

Kerala is worried that a strong earthquake might damage the dam and cause widespread destruction. It is seeking a new dam and has offered to fund and build it, but Tamil Nadu does not agree.

Experts say if a quake strikes and the dam is damaged, over four million people and their property in districts of Idukki, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Ernakulam and parts of Thrissur would be washed away.

The next round of unity is expected to be displayed when an all-party delegation led by Chandy will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi to once again demand a new dam.

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