Tamil Nadu opens 7 shutters of Mullaperiyar dam; Idukki Collector urges caution

Mullaperiyar Baby Dam
Mullaperiyar Baby Dam.

Thodupuzha: The Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday opened seven out of the 13 shutters of the Mullaperiyar dam due to rising water levels in the reservoir following heavy rains in the catchment area, the Idukki district administration said.

Idukki District Collector Sheeba George has urged residents on both sides of the Periyar river to be vigilant.

Tamil Nadu had opened one shutter at 8 am by 30 cm to release 397 cusecs of water, a release by the Idukki District administration said in the morning. At 8 am, the water level in the reservoir was at 141.40 feet. At 9 pm, the Tamil Nadu government raised six more shutters of the dam by 30 cm each after the water level in the reservoir reached 141.60 feet, the district administration said later in the evening.

Later, it said that the Tamil Nadu government has announced it will raise three of the 7 open shutters to 60 cm each and a total of 3,949.10 cubic feet of water will be discharged through the spillway.

The district administration also said that as a result of opening more shutters, the water level of Periyar is expected to rise by 75 centimetres or two-and-a-half feet and asked residents on both sides of the river to be vigilant.

The shutters of the century-old dam were closed on Monday. However, the shutter has been opened after 24 hours.

Mullaperiyar is a masonry gravity dam managed by the Tamil Nadu government but geographically, it is situated in Kerala and hence the officers of both governments coordinate with each other before opening the shutters. While the Kerala government is batting for a new dam at Mullaperiyar, Tamil Nadu says the present dam is strong enough.

After hearing pleas seeking directions for supervising the water level at Mullaperiyar dam last month, the Supreme Court had ruled the water level at Mullaperiyar Dam should not exceed 139.5 ft until November 11. Kerala had been contending the rule curve of 142 ft set by Tamil Nadu.

The Supreme Court of India on Monday ordered that all matters related to the Mullaperiyar Dam case would be considered together and posted the next hearing on December 10. The pleas raising issues about the dam, which was built in 1895 on the Periyar river in Idukki district of Kerala, came up for hearing before a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and C T Ravikumar.

During the hearing, the top court observed that there are several pending petitions on the matter and it will deal with all the issues raised in one proceeding.

The bench said it would permit the petitioners, who have filed separate pleas, to argue on the issues raised by them in the main proceeding as the matter should not get delayed.

It said the bench is amid two part-heard matters and it would take up the petitions related to the Mullaperiyar dam issue for hearing immediately after hearing in these two matters get over.

Once the hearing commences, we will identify the areas which we need to inquire into, the bench said, adding, Let the matter commence.

The top court had on November 13 said that issues raised about the dam are a matter of "continuous supervision". On October 28, the apex court had said that Tamil Nadu and Kerala would abide by the water level notified by the expert committee.

The Kerala government had recently told the apex court that "no amount of rejuvenation" can perpetuate the dam and there is a limit to the number of years one can keep dams in service through maintenance and strengthening measures.

It had said the only permanent solution for removing the "eternal threat owing to the safety concerns" of the dam and for protecting the safety of lakhs of people living the downstream of Mullaperiyar dam is to build a new dam in the downstream reaches of the existing dam.

In an affidavit filed before the apex court, the Kerala government had urged that the proposal to fix the upper rule level of Mullaperiyar dam at 142 feet on September 20 as formulated by Tamil Nadu may be avoided.

In its response to the affidavit filed by Kerala, the state of Tamil Nadu has said that repeated assertion of Kerala and petitioners from there in the pleas filed from time-to-time seek to decommission of the existing dam and construction of a new dam, which is wholly impermissible in the light of the apex court verdict on the safety of the dam.

"The dam has been found to be hydrologically, structurally, and seismically safe, Tamil Nadu has said.

The Tamil Nadu government has also told the apex court that "repeated assertion" by Kerala to seek decommissioning of the dam is "wholly impermissible" as the dam is hydrologically, structurally, and seismically safe

On October 25, the apex court had said that the supervisory committee should take a firm decision on the maximum water level to be maintained in the dam.

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