Kerala tells Tamil Nadu to keep water level in Mullaperiyar at 137ft

As the water level in Mullaperiyar inched closer to 138 feet, Kerala has asked Tamil Nadu to maintain the water level at 137 feet. Kerala also wanted the neighbouring state to carry away as much water from Mullaperiyar as possible and store it in Vaigai and Madurai reservoirs.

Kerala made its stand clear at the high-level meeting on Mullaperiyar held on Tuesday. Water resources minister Roshy Augustine confirmed that Kerala had indeed made this demand to Tamil Nadu. He was told that Tamil Nadu representatives would promptly convey the demand to the political leadership and a decision would be taken soon.

Kerala's insistence on 137 ft came after Tamil Nadu representatives said the water level would be kept at 142 ft. The Kerala team, led by additional Chief Secretary Tom Jose, reminded the Tamil Nadu team of the 139.99 ft recommended by the Supreme Court in 2018. "The situation now is worse than what it was then," Roshy Augustine said.

"The northeast monsoon is just about to begin. If the water level in Mullaperiyar dam rises and we are forced to release the excess water, it will have to be diverted to the Idukki dam. At this stage, Idukki dam cannot accommodate more water. This is why we told Tamil Nadu to drain as much water as they can to their side," the minister added.

At the moment, the water level in Mullaperiyar has crossed 137 ft; it is now 137.6 ft. If the dam shutters are opened, 883 families from seven villages will have to be relocated. The district administration has already set up the relief camps.

When shutters of the Mullaperiyar dam were opened in 2015. Photo: Aravind Bala

The Tamil Nadu team was led by additional Chief Secretary (PWD) Sandeep Saxena. Central Water Commission member and Mullaperiyar High-Level Committee chairman Gulshasn Raj was also present.

Kerala governor pitches for something new
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on Tuesday said "something new needs to be done" in Mullaperiyar as the existing dam there is very old and people are working to reach an amicable settlement on the matter.

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan

"I think already everybody knows that the dam is very old. So something new needs to be done. But how to reach an amicable settlement, that is something on which people are working on the matter. Whenever there is any water dispute, then the judiciary is also involved", governor told reporters here as the water-level in the over-a-century-old dam continued to rise.

The governor's statement came a day after the Supreme Court directed the supervisory committee to take a "firm decision" on the maximum water level to be maintained in Mullaperiyar dam.

Mullaperiyar dam, built in 1895 on Periyar river in Idukki district of Kerala, is operated by the Tamil Nadu government for its irrigation and power generation needs. Kerala is insisting on building a new dam, citing safety concerns, but Tamil Nadu is against it, saying the present structure was strong.

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