Mullaperiyar dam surveillance: Irrigation dept to purchase new boat

The old fibre boat used by officials of the Irrigation department lying in the Thekkaday Boat Landing. Photo: Special Arrangement

Idukki: The state Irrigation department will soon issue an order for purchasing a new diesel boat for the convenience of its officials who are deployed for the monitoring of  Mullaperiyar Dam. The decision was taken in the wake of demand by the residents who live downstream of the dam. The water level of the dam touched 136.2ft on Friday.

The fibre boat, which was earlier used by the Irrigation department, is out of order and is gathering dust in the Thekkady boat landing. In the absence of a dedicated boat, the Irrigation Department has been depending on the boats of the Forest Department for monitoring the dam.

Speaking to Onmanorama, Water Resources Minister Roshy Augustine said that the Irrigation Department had been planning to buy a new boat for its officials since the water was allegedly released by Tamil Nadu from Mullaperiyar dam without prior warning in November 2021. 

“We had planned to buy a boat that operates on solar power. However, the proposal was kept on hold as the solar boat with the desired capacity for passengers was not available. But considering the present situation, I will be soon holding talks with the state Forest minister to initiate the procedures to buy a diesel boat. The NOC of the Forest Department is needed for the purchase of the boat,” Augustine said.

The maximum water level at Mullaperiyar was 136 ft before the Supreme Court allowed TN to raise it to 142 ft in 2014.  An alternative arrangement for making available boats for the Irrigation officials will be done in consultation with the Forest and Tourism department, added the minister.

“Two officials from the office of the Irrigation department’s office in Kumily are regularly monitoring the dam water levels,” the minister said.

Minister also said that a replacement for the lone jeep available with the Kattappana sub-division of the Irrigation department, which would be scrapped in January next year as a part of the new vehicle policy of the central government, would also be given in time.

Activist P N Sebastian, who resides at Chappathu, the first residential area near Mullaperiyar Dam where the water arrives when the dam is opened, said that he was not satisfied with the approach of the officials on the Kerala side who belongs to Irrigation, Forest, and Police in matters related to the dam.

“Our officials are not proactive enough in their work related to the dam. It will take at least two hours for the Irrigation officials to reach Mullaperiyar Dam if they travel on a jeep from Kumily to the dam site via Vandiperiyar. From Vallakadavu to the dam, there is a four-kilometre journey through the forest and it is time-consuming. If the journey is through the boat from the Thekkady Boat Landing to the dam, it will take only 45 minutes,” Sebastian noted.

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