Thursday, June 8, 2023

Mullaperiyar dam: Tamil Nadu affidavit says Kerala preventing increasing water level to 142 ft; can’t compare dam situation to Uttarakhand floods, dam in different seismic zone

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The Tamil Nadu Government on Friday filed its response to the reply affidavit filed by Kerala in the Supreme Court in the Mullaperiyar Dam case.

According to Tamil Nadu, the present attempt of Kerala in the response seems to somehow prevent it from raising the level to 142 ft at the Mullaperiyar Dam on one pretext or the other and are raising issues that have been fully addressed by experts from CWC. Further, the Supervisory Committee constituted by the Judgment of the Top Court dated 07.05.2014 is constantly monitoring the safety of the dam.

The repeated assertion of Kerala and petitioners from Kerala in writ petitions filed time to time inter-alia seek decommissioning of the existing dam and construction of a new dam, which is wholly impermissible in the light of judgment of the Supreme Court on the safety of the dam. The dam has been found to be hydrologically, structurally and seismically safe, the affidavit said.

The Apex Court vide its order dated 28.10.2021 had directed State of Kerala to file an affidavit especially to deal with the issue on Rule Curve and about the current approach on or before 08.11.2021 and granted liberty to the Tamil Nadu and Kerala state government to file their responses.

Pursuant to the above, State of Kerala in its reply filed on November 9 has enlarged the scope and raised various issues which have been settled by two judgments of the Supreme Court based on the report of the Expert Committee (2000) and Empowered Committee (2012) which had gone extensively on the safety aspect.

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In its affidavit filed on Friday, the Tamil Nadu government highlighted that pursuant to the constitution of the Supervisory Committee, the storage level of the Mullaperiyar Dam was raised to 142 ft in 2014. The Supervisory Committee has been regularly supervising the various aspects on the safety of the dam and recommended further strengthening measures to the Baby dam.

“The State of Kerala under the heading long term perspective has raised the issue of aging of the dam and stating that there is a need for a new dam and also referred to a report said to be a UN Report which has been relied upon by the petitioner. The reliance by the State of Kerala to an article on aging water resources infrastructure is wholly misplaced. It is not a UN Report but an article published in a Journal. The authors of the article have neither visited the dam nor conducted any test, and some of the references quoted by them are newspaper reports, which refers to the submission of both States of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It is incorrect to refer to such an article by the State of Kerala, and make misleading inference on the safety of the dam.”

It is stated that a motivated writ petition is being supported by the State of Kerala without controverting any of the allegations made by petitioner with regard to Supervisory Committee and the Sub Committee in which the State of Kerala is duly represented. Further, Petitioner has relied on an article stated to be from a report of United Nations University. The State of Kerala in the present response has relied upon in the said Article which seems to be of 2020-21 though no date has been mentioned in the said article. A perusal of the article reveals that reference has to be made to some article in 2013 and some incident that occurred in 2011.

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The points raised in the article on the safety of the dam have been gone into by the Empowered Committee which came to a categorical conclusion that the dam is safe on all aspects. The dam has been retrofitted and found to be structurally, hydrologically and seismically safe. The repeated assertion by the inhabitants of Kerala by filing petitions after petitions raising the issue with regard to safety of the dam and for construction of a new dam is an attempt to get over the binding adjudication, which is wholly impermissible, the Tamil Nadu government response said.

Obstructionist attitude of state of Kerala

The Tamil Nadu affidavit said the State of Kerala persists with its obstructionist attitude in depriving Tamil Nadu to carry out various activities related to Mullaperiyar Dam. The same are as under;

1) 2006 (3) SCC 643- 27.02.2006 32. Under the aforesaid circumstances, the Apex Court  permits the State of Tamil Nadu to carry out further strengthening measures as suggested by CWC and hope that the State of Kerala would cooperate in the matter. The State of Kerala and its officers are restrained from causing any obstruction. After the strengthening work is complete to the satisfaction of CWC, independent experts would examine the safety angle before the water level is permitted to be raised to 152 ft.

2) In spite of repeated follow up on the power connection to the Mullaperiyar Dam since 2000, the same was restored only in 2021.

3) Strengthening works in the Baby dam has been successfully thwarted by the State of Kerala for over 16 years since the judgment dated 27.02.2006.

4) Kerala although agreed in 2015 to install raingauge stations in the catchment of the Dam for inflow forecasting system it has installed only in 2020, but not shared the data till date.

5) Cutting of trees for enabling strengthening of Baby dam was not permitted by Kerala in spite of repeated direction of the Supervisory Committee. The permission is eluding.

In the minutes of the meeting held on 26.10.2021, State of Kerala agreed to expedite all pending forest clearance for maintenance of approach road, and carrying out the balance strengthening works. The State of Kerala issued a letter dated 06.11.2021 permitting the cutting of trees in furtherance of the decision of the Supervisory Committee.

“The reference to disaster occurred due to the Uttarakhand flood is not relevant to Mullaperiyar Dam, whereas Mullaperiyar Dam is falls in seismic Zone III and Uttarakhand falls in Zone IV & V, this issue was raised by State of Kerala before the Empowered Committee which did not agree to the same. The State of Kerala seems to mislead this Hon’ble Court and exaggerate this issue. In the light of the above, this Hon’ble Court may be pleased to accept the Status Report filed by the CWC on the three aspects raised in the Writ Petition viz Gate Operation Schedule, Rule Curve and instrumentation and dispose off the Writ Petition,”

-the Tamil Nadu government prayed to the Top Court.

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It is pertinent to note that the Apex Court on October 28 while asking Kerala and Tamil Nadu to abide by the decision taken by the Supervisory Committee regarding the appropriate water level in Mullaperiyar dam had adjourned the hearing in the case till November 11. The bench was hearing two writ petitions seeking urgent directions to restrict water level in Mullaperiyar dam, which is being managed by Tamil Nadu for drawing water to its districts.

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