Promising to raise the water storage level in Mulla Periyar dam to 152 feet, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president M.K. Stalin described the AIADMK rule in Tamil Nadu as “non-performing government” here on Tuesday.
Speaking at a well-attended public meeting to seek votes for the DMK candidate Velusami, contesting on behalf of the DMK for the Lok Sabha seat from Dindigul and C Soundarapandian from Nilakottai by-election to the Assembly, Mr. Stalin took a dig at the State government for drastic fall in each and every sphere.
“The Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister and Ministers have ruined the State by doing nothing…There is no development. The State is going backward in every sector. The DMK will put an end to the corrupt regime of the AIADMK soon,” he added.
Explaining the salient features of the party’s manifesto released a few days ago, he said that the DMK was committed to the poorest of the poor sections in society.
“We will do everything possible to improve their standard of living,” he said. Be it weavers or farmers or unorganised workers, the party would be sincere in its efforts and implement the manifesto, if elected to power. Certain promises made in the manifesto would be taken up with the Centre and recommend for implementation, he clarified.
He also took a dig at the Pattali Makkal Katchi founder S. Ramadoss for conveniently forgetting all the charges levelled against the AIADMK government by him and how the party had now joined hands with the AIADMK in the election.
“The people should teach them a fitting lesson. Time is ripe now to show them the door,” Mr. Stalin said amidst applause from the gathering. On behalf of the AIADMK alliance, the PMK is contesting in the Dindigul Lok Sabha constituency.
The DMK, he said, would keep its promise and recalled the late Karunanidhi’s words: of “Solvathai Seivom, Seivathai Solvom” and as the son of Mr. Karunanidhi, he took a pledge to continue to walk in the path of the late leader and guide Tamil Nadu in the right direction.
Earlier, Mr. Stalin went around the main thoroughfares in the constituency seeking votes for the DMK candidates. Former Minister I Periasami and other leaders also accompanied him.
Tamil Nadu government has informed that the Mullaperiyar dam will be opened at 7 am on October 29 if the water level in the reservoir does not fall, Kerala Water Resources Minister Roshy Augustine said on Wednesday.
“Kerala has already taken necessary arrangements ahead of the dam opening and the state is prepared to deal with it,” the minister wrote on Facebook.
The current water level in the dam is 137.75 feet. The maximum level set by the Central Water Commission for the month is 138 feet.
Augustine said while the water inflow is 3,800 cusecs, Tamil Nadu is drawing 2,300 cusecs of water from the dam.
On Tuesday, Kerala had asked Tamil Nadu to maintain the water level in the dam at 137 feet, considering the flood threat in the state. The Met Department has forecast heavy rain triggered by a low pressure that is expected to form over the Bay of Bengal and a cyclonic circulation over the Arabian Sea.
The apex court had earlier directed the authorities to maintain the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam at 139.9 feet, considering the 2018 flood that had taken several lives and left a trail of destruction in Kerala.
The 126-year-old dam, situated in Idukki district of Kerala but operated by Tamil Nadu, has once again emerged as a source of dispute between the two states with Kerala demanding to lower the water level in the wake of incessant rains in the state for the last few weeks. Social media is rife with concerns over the safety of the dam built across River Periyar.
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, on Tuesday, had said “something new needs to be done” in Mullaperiyar as the existing dam there is very old and people are working to reach an amicable settlement on the matter.
On Monday, the Supreme Court had directed all the authorities concerned to interact immediately on an urgent basis on the issue saying it has something to do with lives.
Committee may review its opinion if situation suddenly changes on the ground due to heavy rains, etc.: Bench
The Supreme Court on Thursday said the States of Tamil Nadu and Kerala will abide by the water level notified by the Supervisory Committee for the Mullaperiyar dam for the time being.
A Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar said the Supervisory Committee may review its opinion if the situation suddenly changes on the ground due to heavy rains, etc.
“To assuage the apprehensions of the parties we place on record, for the time being, the parties will abide by the water level notified by the expert committee. Needless to observe that it will be open to the committee to review its decision from time to time, including on hour-to-hour basis, if the situation so warrants,” the court recorded in its order.
The upper rule levels for the dam are 138 feet on October 31 and 139.5 feet on November 10. The case has been scheduled for hearing on November 11 at 2 p.m.
The Bench deferred the hearing after Kerala requested time to file a detailed affidavit in response to the committee’s views, especially with regard to ‘rule curve’, which means the level maintainable in the reservoir on different days.
The court directed Kerala to file its affidavit on or before November 8.
Appearing for Kerala, senior advocate Jaideep Gupta pointed out that the Northeast monsoon was about to begin and the reservoir level was expected to rise. “After that, it will be dangerous,” he submitted during a physical court hearing.ALSO READWater storage at Mullaperiyar dam reaches 138 ft, second warning issued
Annual ploy of Kerala: T.N.
Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, for Tamil Nadu, countered that it was an annual ploy of Kerala to bring the level down from 142 feet, a height allowed by the apex court in its judgments. “Every year, Kerala attempts to bring it down from 142 feet,” he argued.
“The 139.5 feet suggested by the Supervisory Committee till November 10 will continue… We will see on the next date on November 11… Meanwhile, let the parties abide by the recommendation of the Supervisory Committee,” Justice Khanwilkar addressed both the States.
Earlier in the day, Kerala submitted a note in the court raising objections against the committee’s recommendations on rules curves. The panel was against any drastic changes in the water level at the dam.
The State noted that a 126-year-old structure, held together by lime-surkhi and situated in a seismically active zone amidst torrential blasts of rains, was vulnerable. The structure and the danger of high upper rule levels posed a catastrophic risk to the lives and property of lakhs of people downstream.
The State, in a note filed in the court, pointed to the prediction of heavy rainfall till October 31. It had asked for a reduction in the dam’s maximum level to 139 feet rather than the court-approved 142 feet. It argued that a flood-routing exercise had seen the level rising above 142 feet for more than 50 hours.
“The Mullaperiyar Dam is a 126-year-old composite gravity dam situated at an altitude of 2890 feet above MSL on the Western Ghats. The hearting of the dam, which accounts for more than 60% of the volume of the dam, was constructed with lime-surkhi concrete. Quite understandably, seismic forces were not considered in its design. Presently, the dam is in deteriorating condition due to its age. There would be an exponential increase in the water pressure and uplift pressure acting on the dam when the water level is raised from 136 ft to 142 ft. (i.e. from 859.167 to 936.648 tonnes per meter length of the dam),” the note explained.
The consequences of any failure of this dam may be “beyond human imagination”. Tamil Nadu could take several measures to keep the water at a safe level without reducing its supply water availability. Instead of utilising the full outflow capacity of 2,735 cusecs at 137 feet, it was drawing only 2200 cusecs only till 5 a.m. as on October 27. It could create additional storage at appropriate places. The capacity of the Vaigai dam could be enhanced to store more water. The capacity of the existing tunnel could be enhanced or an additional tunnel constructed for drawing more water from the Mullaperiyar reservoir, it stressed.
The colonial-era Mullaperiyar dam has again become a source of friction between Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Though the original dispute was over the appropriateness of the dam’s water level, Kerala, already reeling under severe adverse impact from floods, has surprised everyone this time by accusing Tamil Nadu of having carried out “sudden releases” of water. This, Kerala says, forced it to discharge more water from the downstream Idukki reservoir, about 40 km away from Mullaperiyar, which has been cited as one of the causes for the “deluge”. In Kerala’s assessment, Tamil Nadu should have heeded its request immediately and lowered the water level in Mullaperiyar to 139 ft for moderating floods.
Tamil Nadu, on its part, has defended its position and stated that, well before shutters of the Mullaperiyar were opened in the early hours of Independence Day (August 15), excess water was being discharged through the flood gates of several dams in Kerala. Besides, compared to about 36 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) of water released from the Idukki and Idamalayar dams in the Periyar basin from August 14-19, the amount of water released from Mullaperiyar at the same time was hardly 6.65 TMC, which was “far less” than the quantities of water that flowed from the other two dams. Mullaperiyar, the safety of which has been confirmed by experts on several occasions, has enough provision to handle flood flows: this is how Tamil Nadu justified its stand, and denied the charge made by its neighbour.
For those uninitiated into the history of the Mullaperiyar, here are some facts: the dam, located in the Idukki district of Kerala, is operated and maintained by Tamil Nadu for meeting the drinking water and irrigation requirements of five of its southern districts. As a sequel to an agreement signed between the then Travancore and Madras governments in October 1886, about 8,000 acres was leased by the former to the latter for the execution of the dam project. The dam was built over the period from 1887 to 1895.
Everything went smoothly for nearly 80 years. But, in 1979, a row erupted over the safety of the dam. Consequently, in November 1979, a tripartite meeting chaired by the then head of the Central Water Commission, K.C. Thomas, decided that water level had to be brought down from the full reservoir level of 152 ft to 136 ft, in order to enable Tamil Nadu carry out dam strengthening works. By mid-1990, Tamil Nadu started demanding restoration of the water level in the Mullaperiyar as it had completed the task assigned to it. When no consensus was reached through negotiations, the Supreme Court was approached. In two separate judgements, in 2006 and 2014, the apex court held that the water level be raised to 142 ft.
It is against this background that the latest controversy has to be viewed. An element of uneasiness has entered the ties between Tamil Nadu and Kerala on the subject of water. The equation between the two States is far more complex than those of Tamil Nadu with Karnataka. With Kerala, Tamil Nadu has issues on several river waters, such as Parambikulam-Aliyar, Siruvani of the Bhavani sub-basin, Neyyar, and the proposal for linking the Pamba and Achankovil rivers of Kerala with Vaippar of Tamil Nadu. But, in the case of Karnataka, Cauvery is the only river to be considered.
As for events concerning the present Kerala floods, there has been criticism in certain quarters that the authorities in the State delayed the release of surplus water until the end. Officials of Tamil Nadu, too, are of the view that it was their counterpart that had “mismanaged” the release of water from its reservoirs, and only a “negligible amount” of water flowed from the Mullaperiyar to Kerala.
What is being overlooked in the current discourse is that Kerala, after a gap of five years, is experiencing a bountiful southwest monsoon (June-September). As a matter of fact, between 2010 and 2017, there was only one excess monsoon — in 2013. There were three deficit years (2012, 2015 and 2016), while the remaining four years had a ‘normal monsoon’. Even in the ‘normal’ years, two years recorded a negative value of departure for rainfall. So, Kerala’s water managers were under enormous pressure to store as much water as possible. This could have possibly come in the way of their judgement in commencing the release of water even at the beginning of August, when the storage in two important dams — Idukki and Idamalayar — was a little more than 90% of their capacity. According to an August 19 report by the Meteorological Department, in all of 35-odd major reservoirs in Kerala, storage was close to the full reservoir level (FRL) by the end of July, and there was no buffer storage left to accommodate heavy inflows from August 10.
Tendency to store
Indeed, the tendency to store water to almost the full level of reservoirs is becoming a norm among water managers across States. In mid-July, Karnataka, too, started releasing surplus waters from the Kabini and Krishnaraja Sagar dams on the Cauvery system only when it knew that it could not hold any more water. Fortunately, the Mettur dam in the Salem district of Tamil Nadu is big enough to accommodate all the flood flows. For the last one month, Mettur, too, has been releasing excess water flows. In December 2015, Tamil Nadu also faced criticism for delaying the release of surplus water from the Chembarampakkam tank, causing floods in Chennai.
In the current battle over the Mullaperiyar, the Supreme Court has come Kerala’s rescue by telling Tamil Nadu to keep the water level in the dam at 139 ft till the end of August. But Kerala and Tamil Nadu must introspect seriously over their respective positions and avoid acrimony while protecting their interests.
Kerala said the water level should not go above 139 feet, the same as what the court had ordered on August 24, 2018 when the State was hit by flood.
The Supreme Court on October 25 directed the Supervisory Committee to take an immediate and firm decision on the maximum water level that can be maintained at Mullaperiyar dam amidst torrential rains in Kerala.
Kerala said the water level should not go above 139 feet, the same as what the court had ordered on August 24, 2018 when the State was hit by flood.
Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, informed the court that the level in the dam was 137.2 ft at 9 a.m. on October 25. Tamil Nadu Additional Advocate General V. Krishnamurthy said officials of his State were already interacting with those in Kerala on the ground situation. The Kerala Chief Minister has written to his Tamil Nadu counterpart.
“He [Kerala CM] has only said that they should be informed early before the opening of the shutters,” Mr. Krishnamurthy submitted.
He said the inflow into the reservoir was 2,220 cusecs and the outflow was 2,200 cusecs. Mr. Krishnamurthy said heavy rainfall was not expected for the next five days. As regards Kerala’s contention to not raise the water level beyond 139 feet, he said the Supreme Court had, in judgments in 2006 and 2014, fixed the maximum water level at 142 feetADVTADVT
The court asked Kerala/Tamil Nadu officials to interact responsibility and avert any danger to lives.
‘Don’t play politics’
The Supreme Court made it clear that this was not an issue to play politics about.
The court directed the Supervisory Committee to get to work as there was “an immediate need to specify the maximum water level in the dam” because of the rains.
The order came in a petition filed by Idukki resident Joe Joseph and office-bearers of the Kothamangalam block panchayat in Kerala, who had expressed their apprehensions about the supervision of water levels in the Mullaperiyar dam located along the Periyar tiger reserve, especially during the rainy season.
“For the last one week, it has been raining heavily in Kerala. The lives of 50 lakh people would be in danger if the water level in the dam is raised,” advocate Wills Mathews, for Mr. Joseph, submitted.
“Please understand the anxieties of the parties involved. You take stock of the situation, decide and tell us what to do… We cannot decide the level sitting here,” Justice Khanwilkar addressed Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the committee.
Kerala, represented by senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, repeatedly insisted that the court should ask Tamil Nadu to maintain the level at 137.2 feet as per the 2018 order. He said this level should be maintained until the committee decided in a day or two. Mr. Gupta countered Tamil Nadu’s claim there would be no rain in the next few days.
“When there is a risk, one should err on the side of caution,” Mr. Gupta suggested.
Justice Khanwilkar retorted that States should have seriously interacted with each other and approached the Supervisory Committee, considering the seriousness of the issue involved.
“This is something that has to be done seriously… This court should not be made into a political arena… It is because of inaction on your part that we are made to decide this here,” Justice Khanwilkar addressed Mr. Gupta.
On August 24, 2018, the court had agreed that the water level in the Mullaperiyar reservoir should be maintained two or three feet below the permissible limit of 142 feet till August 31 as an immediate precaution to guard against floods or other disasters.