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Monday, November 21, 2011

Mullaperiyar Dam - An Atom bomb about to Explode


 The Mullaperiyar Dam, situated in Idukki District of Kerala has now developed minor cracks due to tremors felt in the area just recently. The Dam is situated in a quake prone area and experts have warned that there was possibility to occur tremors measuring 6 or above in Richter scale, as increased Seismic activities are seen of late. The Idukki Dam is just 30 Kms away from Mullaperyar and in addition to the regional vulnerability to quake, the presence of multiple Dams too can turn out to be a triggering factor for a major quake. The water from the Mullaperyar Dam reaches to Idukki Dam, the biggest hydel power reservoir in Kerala and a major producer of Electricity in the State. Although Mullaperyar Dam has a height of 155 feet, water is stored up to a height of 136 feet only against the protest of neighboring State of Tamil Nadu which demands to store water up to 142 feet. The Kerala Government cannot do that on account of the structural weakness of the Dam.

 The Dam was constructed in 1985 using lime and surkhi mortar.The advanced technology of dam construction  was not known at the time and it is still standing because of the excellence of the British Government work. The dam was built originally for a guaranteed period of 50 years which ended 75 years ago. A new Dam should have been constructed in its place long ago, but it could not be done because the owner ship rests with Tamil Nadu Government and the Tamil Nadu is adamantly opposing to make any changes to the Dam. The matter is with the Supreme Court

On closer look, the whole issue would appear an absurd drama.Though the entire area of  Dam belongs to Kerala state, including the Dam's catchments areas in Western Gnats, it is unable to carry out any works there including building a new Dam without permission of either from the Tamil Nadu Govt.or from the court as the Government's hands are tied up with a Lease Deed made out in 1886 between Travancore Maharaja and the British Government representing the present Tamil Nadu which was then an administrative sub division of British India. The lease is for a period of 999 years. Though the lease indenture annulled on its own as it was an agreement signed before the constitution of India came in to force, a review agreement had to be made between Kerala and Tamil Nadu in 1970 to continue supply of water to Tamil Nadu. The dam water is badly needed for the arid lands of Theni, Ramanathapuam, Sivaganga and Madurai Districts of Tamil Nadu and it is a hot social and political issue there.

The exigency now is to decommission the present  Dam and build a new dam as early as possible. There is increased seismic activity in the region now and frequent tremors are weakening the Dam. It is unthinkable what would happen if a strong quake brought damage to the Dam (God forbid) As the water from Mullaperiyar dam would immediately flow to Idukki Dam and Idukki Dam not designed to cope with waters from the Mullaperiyar additionally it is unpredictable what would happen then. And such an eventuality would inundate four districts of Kerala including the commercial hub, Cochin.The loss of life and property is unimaginable. 

  As said above,more than 20 mild tremors were reported this year alone and the latest is just a day ago and  each tremor would be making a little instability in the structure and already two minor cracks have been developed at the bottom of the Dam. The experts are examining it.

Ms Jayalalitha, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu is against building a new dam at the site. She is an intelligent lady and she can very well understand the danger the present Dam poses to Kerala, but the matter is embroiled in politics and she has no choice but to favour her people's sentiments as in the Koodankulam Thermal project. The chief Minister knows the Koodankulam plant is not as much dangerous as the local people fear about it and she had also tried to assuage their apprehension but when the people stood adamant she gave in and sided with her people. No chief Minister can ignore people.

However, it is time the Tamil Nadu Government and the people  seriously pondered over the vulnerability of the present dam and the threat Kerala is facing and cooperated with the Government of Kerala in its efforts.

With  regard to the Tamil people’s misgivings on the uninterrupted supply of water to the central Tamil Nadu Districts from a newly built dam, a fresh agreement on sharing water can easily be drawn up as done in 1970. The Government of Kerala would only be happy to supply agricultural water to Tamil Nadu and its only concern is about the safety of the dam and safety of its people.

 I will never understand why such an obvious fact is evading a straightforward  response from the people of Tamil Nadu  leaving the  matter to drag on for years.

As for the people of Kerala the danger from the Mullaperiyar Dam is real and serious. Although there is program for erecting new Dam in Mullaperyar it has not gained momentum and it is still at the paper work stage.

 The earth quakes have no paperwork to do before they hit at a target.

Still Don't Believe Us - Look at what the media is Saying since the last quake 2 days ago - cant wait no more