Tamil Nadu against panel to study strength of Mullaperiyar dam

February 12th, 2009 - 9:10 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 12 (IANS) The Tamil Nadu government Thursday rejected the Supreme Court’s proposal to form an expert committee to examine if Kerala’s 113-year-old Mullaperiyar dam can withstand the pressure of raised water levels.
A bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice Mukundkam Sharma had Wednesday proposed formation of the committee to examine the strength of the dam, with members agreeable to both states.

The bench was hearing Tamil Nadu’s lawsuit objecting to a law enacted by the Kerala government in 2006.

The law negates the apex court’s Feb 27, 2006 ruling that asked Kerala to allow Tamil Nadu to raise the dam water level from the existing 136 feet to 142 feet after carrying out repairs to strengthen the structure.

Appearing for Tamil Nadu, senior counsel Vinod Bobde Thursday conveyed to the bench that the state did not agree to the proposal and wanted the February 2006 ruling to be implemented in full.

The bench had proposed an expert committee after senior counsel Harish Salve citing the findings of a study, undertaken by a professor of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, on behalf of Kerala, revealed that the dam would be incapable of withstanding any enhanced thrust from the rise in its water level.

During the hearing earlier, the bench took a dig at the Kerala government for enacting the law “even before the ink on the judgement had dried up”.

But Salve asserted that “unless you declare the law unconstitutional, it’s very much there in force” and Kerala would not allow Tamil Nadu to have its say in raising the water level of the dam to 142 feet as the old dam runs the risk of collapsing and inundating a vast area in the state.

In case the Mullaperiyar dam bursts, the large downstream Idukki dam, too runs the risk of being swept away.

The bench adjourned hearing on the lawsuit by Tamil Nadu to March 31.

The Mullaperiyar dam was commissioned 1895 by the erstwhile British rulers, on 8,000 acres of land leased by the erstwhile princely state of Travancore, now part of Kerala.

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

Now Kerala is considering decommissioning the dam given the threat to lives of people in the region. Tamil Nadu is opposed to it and wants to raise the height of the dam for more irrigation and power generation benefits.

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