Union minister’s Mullaperiyar remark irks Kerala

January 16th, 2012 - 3:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Kottayam (Kerala), Jan 16 (IANS) Union Science and Technology Minister Ashwani Kumar’s statement that the 115-year-old Mullaperiyar dam is safe has not gone down well in Kerala with ruling front ally Kerala Congress (Mani) Monday announcing its support to a strike call by an anti-dam panel.

Government chief whip and senior KC (Mani) party member P.C. George told IANS that the decision to extend moral support to the strike call by the Mullaperiyar Action Committee on Wednesday has been taken by his party’s political affairs committee.

“It is not only us, almost all parties have extended their support to the call given by the Action Committee. This committee has been on a sit-in protest near the dam site for the past 1,800 days demanding a new dam,” said George.

State Water Resources Minister P.J. Joseph termed as “sad” Union Minister Ashwani Kumar’s remark Sunday that the Mullaperiyar dam is safe and there was no need to worry.

“It is sad that such a statement has come from a federal minister. We feel that our own ministers like Defence Minister A.K. Antony should speak up for our cause,” said Joseph, who first raked up the dam issue when he said late last year that he can’t sleep apprehending that the dam in Idukki district might give way anytime.

The Kerala Congress (Thomas), ally of the opposition Left Monday asked state Finance Minister K.M. Mani, the supreme leader of the KC (Mani), to leave the Congress-led ruling alliance if it was unable to push for a new dam.

The months of November and December saw huge protests for a new dam with all political parties in the state joining in and numerous legislators holding indefinite relay fasts.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and leader of opposition V.S. Achuthanandan met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to demand a new dam.

Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been at loggerheads over the dam, which was built under an 1886 accord between the then Maharaja of Travancore and the erstwhile British Raj. The dam, which is located in Kerala, serves Tamil Nadu.

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

The Kerala government says a strong earthquake could cause widespread destruction in the state.

The state government is seeking a new dam and has offered the funds to build it, but the Tamil Nadu government has strongly opposed it.

Experts say if a quake strikes, over four million people and their properties in the Idukki, Kottayam, Alappuzha and Ernakulam districts and parts of Thrissur would be affected.

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