Moves to defuse Mullaperiyar dispute

December 5th, 2011 - 10:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi/Chennai/Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 5 (IANS) Two Kerala ministers went on fast Monday, including one at Rajghat in New Delhi, to demand a resolution of the Mullaperiyar dam issue as Tamil Nadu agreed to join the centre-sponsored talks next week.

A Supreme Court appointed committee has also decided to visit the dam site this month.

Kerala Water Resources Minister P.J. Joseph went on fast at Rajghat while Revenue Minister K.M. Mani went on fast in Idukki district where the dam is located.

The 116-year-old dam is located in Kerala but its waters are used by Tamil Nadu.

The five-member apex court-appointed empowered committee, headed by former chief justice of India A.S. Anand, decided to visit the site of the dam December-end.

The committee will also hold its next sitting next Jan 2-3, where the contending states - Kerala and Tamil Nadu - will be asked to present their latest assessments of the dam, which local residents say has developed cracks and may threaten the lives of 3.5 million people in five districts.

The empowered committee will also hear Kerala’s plea for a new dam, sources said.

In New Delhi, Joseph sat on a daylong fast in New Delhi’s Gandhi Smriti from 8.30 a.m. to “pray for change of mind of Tamil Nadu” and pave way for a solution to the dispute.

However, he changed the venue to Rajghat by noon as media was not permitted at the Gandhi Smriti, Monday being a holiday.

In Kerala, Revenue Minister K.M. Mani observed a daylong fast in Idukki pressing for the construction of a new dam.

Meanwhile, in Chennai, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa announced that the state will attend centre-sponsored talks between the two states on Dec 15 or 16. Tamil Nadu had declined to attend the talks initially scheduled for Monday.

The direction for talks had come from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy met him urging central intervention.

In a related development in Delhi, MDMK leader Vaiko met Manmohan Singh demanding that central forces be deployed at Mullaperiyar to protect the dam from an “instigated mob” in Kerala.

The dam site has been the scene of protests for the past 10 days, supported by various political parties and social groups.

Jayalalithaa has said Kerala was whipping up panic and exaggerating the situation.

The water of the Mullaperiyar dam is supplied to Tamil Nadu for drinking and irrigation as per the lease agreement undertaken between the erstwhile Travancore state and British India, to which the area that is now Tamil Nadu belonged.

Kerala is demanding construction of a new dam in view of the cracks in the dam and the earthquakes in the region, while Tamil Nadu refutes the demand, saying the dam is strong and has been periodically repaired.

Meanwhile, a meeting of the state executive of the Congress party, held in Thiruvananthapuram backed the Kerala government proposal for lowering the water level to 120 ft from the existing 136 ft. The plan is opposed by the Tamil Nadu government.

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