Apex court dismisses plea for replacing Mullaperiyar dam

March 12th, 2008 - 12:10 am ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 11 (IANS) The Supreme Court Tuesday dismissed the petition of a Kerala legislator seeking a new dam in place of the 113-year-old Mullaperiyar dam in the state, and said it was for the Kerala government to decide on the matter. A bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat, C.K Thakkar and D.K. Jain dismissed the plea by legislator and former bureaucrat K.J. Alphons, who pleaded that the old dam in Idukki district be replaced as it had outlived its lifespan and posed a threat to millions of people living in its vicinity in case it collapsed.

The bench questioned Alphons’ locus standi in demanding decommissioning of the dam. “How is your petition maintainable? It is for the government of Kerala to take a decision on the issue and it is not interested in the decommissioning,” the bench said, dismissing Alphons’ petition.

Alphons, appearing for a non-governmental organisation Jan Shakti, alleged that the people of Kerala were being cheated by politicians, who he alleged were not interested in their welfare.

The bench, however, took exception to his arguments and said, “We are not accustomed to these kinds of arguments. We are not concerned with what is happening in the government but about the maintainability of your petition.”

The bench told Alphons that his concerns about the loss of life and property in case the dam collapsed would be taken care of during the disposal of another lawsuit filed by the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala on the same matter.

The bench also dismissed the plea of Janata Party president Subramaniam Swamy, who had requested that he be allowed to assist the court in the matter.

“We do not need your assistance. If we need the assistance, then we would appoint an amicus curiae,” the bench said, dismissing Swamy’s application.

Alphons told the court that the dam was built in 1895 with obsolete material and technology and was also located on a seismic zone.

Alphons told the bench that in the event of an earthquake, the dam would collapse, proving catastrophic for over 3.5 million people of four Kerala districts - Idukki, Ernakulam, Alappuzha and Kottayam.

Delving into the history of the dam, Alphons said that 8,000 acres of land in the erstwhile Kingdom of Travancore, now part of Kerala, had been leased out in 1886 for 999 years to the then secretary of the British India for construction of the dam, which was eventually commissioned in 1895.

The 1886 lease deed, known as the Periyar Lease Deed, was amended in 1970 to give Kerala the exclusive right of fishing in the Periyar water while Tamil Nadu was given an exclusive right to generate electricity from the dam on payment of Rs.12 to Rs.18 per kilo watt of generated power to Kerala.

Though Tamil Nadu is opposed to decommissioning of the dam, the Central Water Commission has recommended its replacement following a joint study by experts of the two states.

The expert committee has concluded that the “dam is liable to develop tensile cracks from underground motion likely to be experienced during seismic events”, Alphons told the court.

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