Kerala warns of administrative, legal steps in Mullaperiyar dam case

Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 8 (IANS) As an opposition legislator accused the Kerala government of adopting a “callous attitude” on the Mullaperiyar dam, a state minister on Monday warned of legal and administrative steps against Tamil Nadu government for “violating” Supreme Court guidelines on the issue.

Intervening during a discussion on the issue in the Kerala assembly, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy denied any laxity on his government’s part and said he had written to his Tamil Nadu counterpart J. Jayalalithaa on Monday.

Kerala’s Water Resources Minister P.J. Joseph said the issue would be taken up with the prime minister during a meeting in Delhi soon.

CPI’s Idukki legislator E.K. Bijimol sought to move an adjournment motion in the assembly on the issue of the dam. In reply, Joseph said the apex court-appointed supervisory committee for the dam had failed to act as per the law on Monday.

“The guidelines are very clear… as and when water level rises and nears 142 feet, they (Tamil Nadu officials) should give a 12-hour notice before opening the sluices. It was not adhered to on Monday. Tamil Nadu officials opened the dam gates after 7.30 p.m. without informing us, causing inconvenience to people living downstream. We will take up the issue with the prime minister in the coming days. We will also move the apex court against yesterday’s (Monday) violation,” said Joseph.

Bijimol then asked if filing of a petition in the Supreme Court would help allay fears of people living in and around Idukki district.

“The Kerala government’s callous attitude is allowing Tamil Nadu officials to break the law and do whatever suits them, without taking our officials into confidence,” Bijimol remarked.

Chandy said efforts would be made to meet the prime minister and union water resources minister in Delhi in the next two days about the danger posed by the dam waters to thousands of people living downstream.

“I wrote a personal letter to Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa yesterday (Monday). Even during the previous UPA government’s rule, we made several attempts for a meeting with her, but it did not work as they (Tamil Nadu officials) are not willing to sit across the table to find a solution to this vexed issue,” Chandy said.

“We even suggested that we are prepared to build a new dam downstream, but it too has not gone forward. Our stand has always been ‘water for Tamil Nadu and safety for Kerala’. There has been no laxity on our part,” the chief minister said.

According to an apex court directive in May 2014, the Tamil Nadu government was allowed to increase the water level in the dam only up to 142 feet.

The water level in Mullaperiyar dam at present is barely inches short of 142 feet allowed by the Supreme Court.

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 regime.

Though the dam is located in Kerala, it is owned, maintained and operated by Tamil Nadu and the former has for long been demanding de-commissioning of the dam that has developed leaks.

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