Saturday, December 24, 2011

If an earthquake causes the dam to collapse, it can threaten the lives of 3.5 million people downstream. The issue needs to be looked at as a national problem, not as a dispute between two states

India is said to be a country that upholds the slogan "unity in diversity". We proudly state this to everyone around the world, but there is a question that we have to ask ourselves -- is it true or is it just a statement we put forward to hide our failings?

There's a small example I would like to put forward, the present Mullaperiyar dam crisis which should by all means seen as a national issue rather than an issue between two states. 

If we dig deep and go into the history, the Mullaperiyar Dam is a masonry gravity dam built over the river Periyar in 1895 during the British colonial rule with a predicted life span of 50 years to divert water eastwards towards the Madras presidency area (present day Tamil Nadu).

The diverted water from this dam is used for irrigation in Sivaganga, Theni, Madurai and Ramanathapuram districts. The Periyar power station in Tamil Nadu produces hydro-electric power from these waters and distributes that electricity in Tamil Nadu.

Now getting into the controversial part, the catchment areas and river basin downstream includes five major districts of central Kerala -- Idukki, Ernakulum, Kottayam, Alapuzha and Trissur -- which has a total population of 3.5 million people. 

In 1979, there were few minor earthquakes experienced in the regions surrounding the dam following which safety concerns were raised over the dam. Since then, both states Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been at loggerheads with each other on the issue.

A state agency had reported that the dam will not withstand an earthquake above magnitude 6 on the Richter scale.

Experts from IIT Delhi & Roorkee had mentioned that the structure will not withstand an earthquake and is under serious threat. After all these reminders and 32 years of legal battle, both parties have not reached a consensus on this issue.

Even after the Kerala government's promise to give water and construct a new dam undertaking all the expenses, subsequent Tamil Nadu governments have turned a blind eye towards any suggestions or negotiations by Kerala.

The reasons raised by Tamil Nadu are water scarcity in five districts of Tamil Nadu which will lead to drought in the region, a valid reason.

In response to this the Kerala government has promised to deliver the same amount of water to Tamil Nadu without fail. Here arises the concern of people living in the downstream of this river.

If the Mullaperiyar dam collapses, three dams downstream -- Idukki, Cheruthoni and Kolamavu won't be able to withhold the incoming water (around 15 TMC) which in turn will break these dams, resulting in a catastrophe that will put at risk the lives of 3.5 million people.

A dam which has surpassed its lifespan by more than 66 years poses a threat to the lives of 3.5 million people living in five districts of Kerala.

The big question is: Are the lives of 3.5 million Indians who are living today in anxiety and fear of a possible wipe out important to this country?

A civilization is under the threat of a wipe-out.

Whenever a terror attack or security breach happens in our country, we point fingers at our neighbouring country. But here is a problem that can take the lives of so many innocent Indians, which can be stopped.

And what exactly is our political leadership in this country doing? Nothing.

There has been no substantial action taken in all these years by anyone to avoid this catastrophe.

The political parties in Tamil Nadu are no way ready to budge to any suggestions.

I would like everyone in this country to come forward and demand action as Indians, without the stamp of ethnicity or states attached.



Periyar literally means big river( peri-big. Aar-river) this though name suggests is not Comparable to any big rivers of India not to mention the big rivers of the world. However periyar by all means the biggest river of this small state that is Kerala. Starting from the western ghats downwards to the Arabian sea. There are a lot of hydro electric dams across this river Idukki Sabarigiri are the Notable ones in size.Mullaperiyar dam is constructed in the kerala portion in the Tamilnadu Kerala boarder.

Built of lime mortar hundred a and five years back still serving strong this dam is an architectural marvel .at present its height is 135’. Mullaperiayar dam is built store water and release it for the agricultural purpose of Tamilnadu which is situated in rain shadow region and perpetually faces water shortage. Naturally Kerala which has practically no use with this dam sees this as an instrument to rob their water resource.

Medias view this situation as an opportunity to the play the role of champion for the cause of the state. The Leading news papers have started campaigns that the dam has out lived its life and waiting for it to break it self is suicidal. If Mullaperiyar collapses the gush of water would be sufficient to destroy Idukki and sabarigiri both are no.1 and no.2 in size respectively of the dams in the state of Kerala. The holocaust in described in details of entire districts of Idukki Kottayam and Ernakulam being swallowed by flood waters. Chief ministers are forced to fly to Delhi frequently with memorandum for lessening the height of the Mullaperiyar dam to ensure safety –to play safe .In Tamilnadu where sentiments fly higher does not lag behind; Legislative assembly is flooded with calling attention notices and all sorts of propagandas .

The central -government also play their roles safe by appointing comities to see whether the dam is safe in its present form. the recently appointed in its report has given a clean chit to the smart dam. Controversy hardly dies down ,The committee comprised of only one member from Kerala and he was overshadowed the majority members was the next issue. similarly all the courts see an array of petitions regarding the Democles’s- sword that is the Poor dam..! Finally the Supreme Court has certified the safety of the mullaperiyar dam. Tamilnadu government using the opportunity is all prepared to raise the height of the dam from the present 135’ to 145’and finally to 152’.
Those who sensationalise the issue practically binds the hands of their governments making it impossible to find a solution. Kerala finds it its right to let 95%of the rain water flow directly in to the sea. Where as Tamilnadu is well known for its judicial use of its water -resources. The media has to play vital role in reporting this case with utmost objectivity as dispute with two neighbouring states can easily flare-up to unmanageable proportions; these two states are so  interlinked that any misunderstanding can break a relationship that centuries old’ leading to bloodshed and mutiny. After all publicity and circulation come secondary to people and their livelihood.
Supreme Court tells Kerala, Tamil Nadu not to arouse people’s feelings
There is nothing serious, grave or emergent about the safety of the Mullaperiyar dam warranting our interference at this stage, the Supreme Court observed on 13.12.2011 and asked Tamil Nadu and Kerala not to arouse people’s feelings and create a fear psychosis.
The Empowered Committee, headed by the former Chief Justice of India, A.S. Anand, was looking into all aspects regarding the safety of the dam and no order was required at this stage, observed a five-judge Constitution Bench comprising Justices D.K. Jain, R.M. Lodha, C.K. Prasad, Deepak Verma and Anil R. Dave.
The Bench, however, said the apprehensions of Kerala regarding the safety of the dam could not be brushed aside since the water level in the dam had gone up beyond 136 ft on four days from November 26 to December 2, coupled with earthquakes.
The Bench made it clear to Tamil Nadu that it should maintain the water level at 136 ft.
The Bench was hearing applications filed by Kerala, to reduce the water level in the dam from 136 ft to 120 ft, and Tamil Nadu for deployment of CISF for protection of the dam and to pass an order to restrain Kerala Ministers and officials from making statements creating fear psychosis among the people about the safety of the dam.

Kalam favours armed forces for maintaining rivers, dams
Amid the friction between Tamil Nadu and Kerala over the Mullaperiyar dam issue, former President A P J Abdul Kalam on 14.12.2011 said the country cannot afford a civil war on water and suggested deployment of armed forces to maintain rivers and dams. “Water cannot be a (source of) conflict in India. India cannot afford a civil war on water… Indian rivers and dams have to be operated and maintained by army, navy or other armed forces for equitable distribution,” he said.
Mr. Kalam said chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala should reach for an amicable solution to the issue. “It is not wise to discuss the issue through media,” he cautioned. Strongly batting for interlinking of rivers, he said the country was “not prepared” to face natural disasters caused by floods. “India needs visionaries to launch a river linking project which may have to be completed in two decades and not a five year plan which will fit into politics…,” he said.
Later talking to reporters, he suggested a National Water Grid Management scheme which could be one of the mechanisms to resolve inter-state disputes. “Like national highways and the Central Power Grid, my suggestion is a National Water Grid Management (to resolve water disputes)…,” he said.

Kerala parties agree to call off stirs over Mullaperiyar
A day after the Supreme Court asked both Kerala and Tamil Nadu to cool tempers, major political parties of Kerala, including the Congress and the Left parties, on 14.12.2011 announced that they were calling off their respective agitations over the Mullaperiyar dam issue. Representatives of the parties said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had assured them he would do his best to find an amicable solution to the issue over which political parties and organisations in Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been pitted against each other in recent weeks.
Dr. Manmohan Singh, who met an all-party delegation from Kerala at Parliament House, stressed on the need to create a conducive atmosphere in both States. He wanted politicians and others to restrain themselves as the Supreme Court was already seized of the matter, and not to do anything that might aggravate the situation. The delegation was led by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and the former Chief Minister, V.S. Achuthanandan.

Tamil Nadu MPs’ protest
Meanwhile, a group of Congress MPs from Tamil Nadu, led by TNCC president K. Gnanadesikan and Dindigul MP N.S.V. Chithan, staged a demonstration near the Gandhi statue in the Parliament complex seeking deployment of the personnel of the Central Industrial Security Force in the Mullaperiyar dam area.
They also wanted the Centre to advise Kerala to allow an increase in the water level in the reservoir to 142 feet from the present 136 feet.

TN Assembly asks Kerala to amend Act for raising water level
The Tamil Nadu Assembly on 15.12.2011, in a special sitting, adopted a unanimous resolution, calling upon the Kerala government to make suitable amendments to the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2006 to enable the water level of the 116-year-old Mullaperiyar dam to be raised to 142 feet. Moved by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, the resolution also asked the Kerala government not to create hurdles to the execution of the remaining strengthening measures for facilitating the water level to be raised to 152 ft eventually.  

In short ….The Kerala government's contention is that in case the dam breaks, the three dams downstream -- Idukki, Cheruthoni and Kolamavu – will not be able to withhold the pressure, which will put the lives of 3.5 million people in the state.
On the other hand, the TN government maintains that if the Mullaperiyar is demolished, it will create water scarcity in five districts of the state, leading to a drought in the region.
Bottom line, the politicians need to think of the best, most secure option in order to relieve their people of the tension about the Mullaperiyar dam.


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