December 28th, 2011
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Political parties are not open to alternatives: River Research Centre

mullaperiyar-dam

Political parties are not open to alternative ideas. Big Dam means Big Money…. A Latha, Director, River Research Centre

The Mullaperiyar dam is 116 year old and the dam will have to be decommissioned either now or after 10 years. The earlier the better for no structure like a dam can remain forever. Thus it is imminent that we formulate a plan as to how we will handle the given situation in hand. This issue that we are facing with Mullaperiyar dam can occur or recur in other dams too. So let Mullaperiyar be the first of its kind. Decommissioning the dam is not exactly the problem of Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu’s only concern is that it receives the adequate amount of water as it is receiving today.

An alternative probable situation is to convert Mullaperiyar from a storage dam to a diversion dam for which we would have to gradually reduce the water level and the height of the dam. Simultaneously storage structures should be built in the plains of Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu is building augmenting structures. The water from the Mullaperiyar dam reaches Tamil Nadu through a tunnel which is at 104 feet. As the height of the dam is reduced the height of the tunnel would also have to be reduced.

The role of the centre would be to supervise the decommissioning of the dam and the building of storage structures in Tamil Nadu. It is here that the centre has to intervene. In this manner it is a win- win situation for both Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The whole matter should occur in phased manner may be in a period of 5 years. The dam safety bill which is with the Ministry of Water Resource has to be raised and passed. The bill once passed shall give the state government more power to take decisions in such matters.

The political parties are not open to alternative ideas. Building a new dam involves thousand of crores of rupees. In Kerala we haven’t build a new dam for many years because of people protest. Big dam means big money.

It is impossible to build a dam in one year’s time. And taking into account Kerala’s history we could say that it would take easily ten years to build the dam. Mullaperiyar is not the only dam in the area. There are lots of dams. We haven’t been able to establish a clear relationship between seismicity and dam breakage. The whole situation is totally unpredictable. Then why are we taking the risk of building a new dam in such an unpredictable situation is baffling.

Political parties are playing with the issue. We have to take the safer side. Even if a new dam is built it will be built 400 metres away from the existing dam,  it shall be higher than the existing dam. Which means this taller dam will be in the same seismic zone. In the probability of an earthquake of 6.5 or 7 intensity on the richter scale hits the new dam could also be equally at risk. We had approached even the previous ministry with a need to organize a conference with bureaucrats, technocrats and experts who will putforth their varied views on solving the issue. Of the options putforth the best alternative option could be decided upon. However, our suggestion has fallen upon deaf ears.

The reason as to why Tamil Nadu is adamant is because we have never approached them with an alternative solution. We have always approached them stating that a new dam is the only solution. The new dam if constructed would be outside the current lease area and Kerala can easily demand  a new lease agreement which Tamil Nadu does not prefer. Tamil Nadu is highly united regarding the Mullaperiyar issue.

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