Kerala plans to raise new Mullaperiyar dam in three years

Mullaperiyar dam
The proposed site for new dam.

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala is preparing a detailed project report to construct a new dam within three years of getting Tamil Nadu's permission. The plan is to decommission the existing structure after conducting safety checks on the new dam. Debris from the existing structure would be cleared on a war footing since the dam is situated inside the forest area.

The Supreme Court has instructed Kerala that a new dam could be constructed only with the permission of Tamil Nadu. If Tamil Nadu gives its permission considering the safety of people downstream, Kerala would expedite the construction activities.

Kerala is hopeful that Tamil Nadu would consent to constructing a new dam.

Obstacles before Kerala

Kerala should conduct an environment impact assessment of the new dam, and get it approved by the Central government. The State government has assigned Hyderabad-based Pragati Labs and Consultants Private Limited to carry out the assessment. The study would look into the impact of pre-monsoon, monsoon and winter on the environment. A decision on constructing a new dam will be made on the assessment.

Once the detailed project report is prepared, it should be submitted to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) for its permission. Reports on the site of the dam, and environment impact, too, should be submitted.

After getting the MoEF's nod, the report should be submitted to the Central Water Commission for final approval. 

Kerala firm on lowering storage level

On Wednesday, Minister for Water Resources Roshy Augustine reiterated Kerala's demand for fixing the storage limit of Mullaperiyar dam at 136 feet, besides constructing a new structure to replace the 126-year-old existing one.

The minister's assertion came even as a Supreme Court-Supervisory Committee, on Wednesday, recommended that there was no need to make changes to the water level.

Fears allayed

Meanwhile, Minister for Revenue K Rajan informed that the State government has made all precautionary arrangements for the safety of people in case of torrential rains.

The ministers were speaking to reporters after a review meeting of arrangements made in the light of rising water level in Mullaperiyar dam.

The ministers said the government's intention was to allay the fears of people over the Mullaperiyar issue.

Kerala's stand

Kerala will provide necessary water to Tamil Nadu, and the current water level should be brought down to 136 feet.

Kerala will inform the Supreme Court that Tamil Nadu's rule curve of 138 feet is unacceptable. Tamil Nadu's plan is to release water when the level touches 138 ft, the ministers stated.

The State also took umbrage at the remarks of Tamil Nadu's counsel, who "misinterpreted" Chief Minister Pinaryi Vijayan's statement in the Kerala legislative assembly, at the Supreme Court. Vijayan's statement was against social media posts that were spreading unnecessary panic. Tamil Nadu used his statement to submit before the apex court that there were no concerns over the dam. The Supreme Court has sought a clarification from Kerala on this point.

Augustine also said water from Idukki dam has been discharged foreseeing the possible release of water from Mullaperiyar dam, located some 47 kilometres upstream. The Idukki reservoir has enough space to hold water released from Mullaperiyar.

Arrangements made for 20 camps

Anticipating heavy northeast monsoon showers, Kerala has made arrangements to open 20 camps in a 27 km radius around Mullaperiyar, Minister Rajan said. Two deputy collectors have been deputed at Upputhara and Vandiperiyar to make the arrangements, and the RDO would coordinate the works. Officials have been asked to camp at these areas to face any eventuality. The government also ensured that water from Mullaperiyar will flow to Idukki without any hindrance.

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