Mullaperiyar – part 2- The tamilnadu-kerala Bonhomie


Kerala Tamilnadu – Bonhomie and cooperation

Kerala and Tamil nadu have had excellent relationships with regard to water sharing when compared to the relations between the other three southern states with regards to water sharing.

Infact in Andhra there is a virtual split within the state itself over the question of water sharing. Primary reason for this being these states depend on monsoons for their irrigations and drinking water needs and also have bigger dry, parched regions.

This is unlike the situation in Kerala. Barring certain regions of Palakkad dist, Kerala in addition to being blessed with 44 rivers, is also blessed with copious rain over the entire state.

Kerala’s big problem though has been on power front.  High density of population has meant lack of suitable lands for power projects based on coal. Also the fear on effects of power plants on life has kept these coal based plants away from the state.   Kerala also had rejected a nuclear power plant proposed in 1980’s which then moved to its new site across the border in TN.

This had necessitated Kerala to rely heavily on hydro power and a network on dams across these rivers has been providing them with hydro power. These dams  have little to do with irrigation and drinking water purpose in Kerala compared to other states.

Besides Mullaiperiyar, Tamilnadu and Kerala cooperate on Siruvani, Parambikulam-Aliyar project in borders near Coimbatore-Palghat. The three major PAP reservoirs and its other structures are controlled jointly by the Kerala and Tamil Nadu governments.  Drinking water schemes on both sides are implemented with due cooperation from each side. The joint water regulatory board on interstate PAP takes care of this. In the recent past, increased needs on both sides have led to minor issues, but have been taken care well. This is one of best interstate river water project.

The other border area of kanyakumari where again Western Ghats provide us with many rivers and streams, also had some minor issues and allegations flying, but has more or less remained peaceful. There is a dispute over Neyyar water sharing and is in complete limbo now, as Kerala is reported to have stopped supply in the left channel which irrigates Vilavancode taluk.

A similar sticking point is the 7.5 m long Shenbagavalli veir.  This is actually around the origin of Periyar river. This region Sivagiri hill ranges sees a host of streams originating. In the past the Travancore rulers and the Sivagiri polygars rulers which was one of the 72 originals palayams of Pandyas reached an agreement to create the veir to feed tanks in sivagiri and Rajapalayam. This got damaged in 1971 following tree falls and has not been repaired by Kerala till date though TN had handed cash over in 1986. Kerala had returned the cash back 3 years back stating the inability to carry out the work.

These though have smaller zone of influence and hence haven’t snowballed into a bigger controversy and are being patiently dealt with.

Mullaperiyar – A thorn in the flesh

Unfortunately the Mullaiperiyar issue may end up spoiling this bonhomie. Increasing power needs on both sides have also not helped. With Tamilnadu slipping into a power deficient state due to bad management over the last few years, situation has worsened. TN power condition was same when CM Jayalalitha took over in 2001 and on her request, then CM Ak Anthony had ensured supply of power to TN.

Be it movie industry, tourism, cattle, poultry, construction sand, food and vegetables, other trade and commerce, there has been good cooperation between the two states.

Mullaperiyar has been a sore point in this for over last thirty years. Following the 1979 reports in Malayalam daily with regards to safety of dam, CWC held meetings with engineers of both sides and decided strengthening measures to assure the people on the safety of dam.  It was agreed by TN as per Kerala suggestion to keep the water storage level at 136 ft. while the agreed works were taken up. The works were divided into three categories and short term measures to be done before next monsoon, medium term measures like pre tension /cable anchoring and long term measures were identified.

It was agreed to increase the level back to 145 ft following completion of medium and short term works and both state reached a commitment on this as per CWC

Around 1986 CWC made various design notes to TN on additional splillways, RCC topping to add weight to the gravity dam, RCC wall backing and other measures. CWC also had opined that following completion of these works, the dam was competent enough to hold back its original storage of 152 ft.

With works getting completed and difference of opinion on water storage rising between the  two states, matters proceeded to SC with Subramaniam Swamy calling for transfer of bunch of petitions filed in both state HC. As per Swamy he approached the court after his offer for negotiation was rejected by then Kerala CM.

Following talks failure, SC appointed an expert committee to go into the safety aspects of the dam. Besides CWC, the service of Central Materials Research and Soil station was also used. The committee had the CWC designs and research wing director , two chief engg of CWC, director of dam safety govt of MP, a retd. engineer in chief from UP as members besides representatives of TN,Kerala.

Part 1 Part 3  Part 4

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