Despite repeated requests from Kerala to provide prior warning, Tamil Nadu continues to open the shutters of the Mullaperiyar dam without any advance notice and even at night causing a lot of hardships for people living in downstream areas.
As TN continues to ignore its pleas, Kerala has now moved the Supreme Court seeking remedy for the sudden release of water by the officials of Tamil Nadu at night and without prior warning. In the special application submitted in the Supreme Court, Kerala raised the plea to constitute an onsite joint technical committee to monitor and regulate the release of water from the dam.
Kerala has appealed to the court to direct Tamil Nadu to adhere to the decision being taken by this four-member committee (two each from Tamil Nadu and Kerala) for spillway release. The Supreme Court will hear the matter on December 10.
Between November 30 to December 8, the shutters of the dam had been opened without prior warning six times and the entire area downstream was inundated. “Every time the water comes in, we have to leave our house and stay in another place. The people living in this locality cannot even sleep properly as TN opens the shutters in the night,” U H Sidique, a native of Vallakkadavu told The Federal.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sent a letter to M K Stalin, the CM of Tamil Nadu on December 2, 2021 bringing this matter to his notice. On November 30, 5,700 cusecs water was released in the wee hours with no prior warning and this led to flooding in the adjacent areas. On December 2 at 3 am, 6,413 cusecs water was released by opening two more shutters of the dam. This was increased to 8,017 cusecs at 4 a m by opening all the ten shutters, according to the letter sent by the Kerala CM.
“The officials at the dam site need to keep closely monitoring the situation. The release of water has to be planned, gradual and only during that time after giving adequate warning to the people in downstream areas. The discharge of water in the night and early morning without prior warning creates avoidable risk and panic,” said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in his letter to M K Stalin.
The release of water from the Mullapperiyar dam caused the water levels to rise in the Idukki dam too. In the past one week, the shutters of the Idukki dam were also kept open because of the rising water levels.
Besides the letter sent by the Kerala CM to his counterpart, the other officials too have repeatedly made requests to Tamil Nadu to exercise caution while releasing water. On December 2, the Idukki district collector wrote to his counterpart in Theni not to release water without giving a six hour notice to the Idukki district administration. Kerala chief secretary V P Joy has also written to the TN chief secretary explaining the difficulties being faced by the people living in the downstream of the Periyar river adjacent to the dam.
“No one listens,” said Sidique, who lives six kilometres away in the downstream area of the Periyar river. “On Wednesday (December 8) too, they released water at midnight. They have done this six times so far. On days when it rains heavily, we don’t sleep as we expect floods to submerge our houses. The psychological impact of this situation, especially upon children and the elderly is terrible,” pointed out Sidique, a local journalist who works with the Malayalam daily ‘Suprabhatham’.
K S Radhakrishnan, the spokesperson of the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu told The Federal that Kerala is not following the Supreme Court orders that is in favour of Tamil Nadu. “The dam is being opened for the safety of Tamil Nadu. The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister is approaching the Mullaperiyar issue in a friendly manner to Kerala, but Kerala only finds fault with Tamil Nadu,” said Radhakrishnan, adding that releasing water from the dam is not a serious issue.
The District Collector of Theni could not be reached despite several attempts by The Federal. Mullaperiyar has been a contentious matter between the two states. The dam is located in Kerala but operated by Tamil Nadu according to an agreement signed during the colonial period.