The Mullaperiyar Dam, situated in Idukki District of Kerala has developed serious cracks the entire 1200 feet length due to frequent small and big tremors and the news have now displayed prominently in the newspapers on account of its gravity.
Idukki is a mountainous region and though it is geographically ideal place to build dams, the Geologists have found out a fault line that makes the place prone to quakes. The experts say that there is possibility for quakes measuring 6 or above in Richter scale in the region, as increased Seismic activities are seen now.
The Idukki Dam is just 30 Kms away from Mullaperyar and in addition to the regional vulnerability to quake, the presence of multiple Dams too can turn out to be a triggering factor for a major quake. The water from the Mullaperyar Dam reaches to Idukki Dam, the biggest hydel power reservoir in Kerala and a major source of Electricity in the State. Although Mullaperyar Dam has a height of 155 feet, water is stored up to a height of 136 feet only against the protest of neighboring State of Tamil Nadu which demands to store water up to 142 feet. The Kerala Government cannot comply it on account of the structural weakness of the Dam.
The Mullaperiyar Dam is situated 5000 feet above sea level with a length of 1200 feet and a height of 155 feet. The Dam was constructed in 1895 using lime and surkhi mortar.The advanced technology of dam construction was not known then and if the Dam outlived its projected period it is because of the excellence of the work done by the British Government. It was built originally for a projected period of 50 years which ended 65 years ago. A new Dam should have been constructed in its place long ago, but it could not be done because the ownership of the dam rests with Tamil Nadu Government and the Tamil Nadu is adamantly opposing to make any changes to the Dam. The dispute is before the supreme court of India now.
On closer look, the whole issue would appear strange. Though the entire area of Dam belongs to Kerala state, including the Dam's catchments areas in Western Gnats, the State is unable to carry out any works there including building a new Dam without permission of either from the Tamil Nadu Govt.or from the Supreme Court. The Government's hands are tied up with a Lease Deed made out in 1886 between Travancore Maharaja and the British Government, representing the present Tamil Nadu which was then an administrative sub division of British India. The lease is for a period of 999 years. But after the Independence, the lease indenture annulled on its own as it was an agreement signed before the constitution of India came in to force.
However, a review agreement was made between Kerala and Tamil Nadu in 1970 to continue supply of water to Tamil Nadu. The Tamil Nadu needs the water from the Dam to irrigate the arid lands of Theni, Ramanathapuam, Sivaganga and Madurai Districts comprising Lakhs of Acres and no wonder it is a hot social and political issue in Tamil Nadu. The owner ship of the Dam and Dam site remained with the Tamil Nadu Government in the fresh agreement also.
The dam appears to be in real danger as tremors are a regular feature in the area and even a single tremor would be making a little instability in the structure and already serious cracks have been developed at the bottom of the Dam.
It is unthinkable what would happen if a strong quake brought damage to the Dam (God forbid) As the water from Mullaperiyar dam would immediately flow to Idukki Dam and Idukki Dam not designed to cope with waters from the Mullaperiyar additionally, it is unpredictable what would happen then. And such an eventuality would inundate four districts of Kerala including the commercial hub, Cochin.The loss of life and property is unimaginable.
Ms Jayalalitha, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu is against building a new dam at the site. She is an intelligent lady and she can very well understand the danger the present Dam poses to Kerala, but the matter is embroiled in politics and she has no choice but to favour her people's sentiments.
However, it is time the people of Tamil Nadu seriously pondered over the vulnerability of the present dam, the threat Kerala is facing and their own necessity to have a dam there They should ask themselves, why not a better dam and why not a larger quantity of water for their fields.
With regard to the Tamil people’s perennial suspicion on the uninterrupted supply of water to the central Tamil Nadu Districts from a newly built dam, a fresh agreement on sharing water can easily be drawn up as done in 1970. The Government of Kerala would only be happy to supply agricultural water to Tamil Nadu and its only concern is about the safety of the dam and safety of its people.
If Tamil Nadu had cooperated earlier a new dam would have come up by now and they too would have benefited from it. Any way a new dam will have to be made sooner or later and ad-hoc repairs are not going to sustain the Dam for long when there is the threat of earth quake. In the circumstance the obvious choice is to build a new Dam. I will never understand why it does not get positive response from the people of Tamil Nadu leaving the matter to drag on for years.
If Tamil Nadu is putting forward conditions for constructing new Dam including uninterrupted supply of water, it is understandable and can be discussed, but simply saying a stubborn no without citing any reason is frustrating indeed. Generally speaking, the Tamil people are very loving, cordial and cooperative but in this case Tamil Nadu politics seems to have prevented them from taking an equitable stand.
7.2.2012: The News reports have it that a small dam situated on the Ivanovo reservoir in the Southern Bulgaria was collapsed Monday,6th Feb. due to continuous rains for the last several days inundating the village Bisser and neighboring regions. The rivers and reservoirs there were already swollen with rains and melted ice under which the Dam gave in ultimately. Now the water from the burst reservoir too is flowing in to the rivers making other dams nearby to burst any time. So far 8 persons were reported dead and several ones missing.
Of course this is an extra ordinary case. Yet it reminds us that prevention is better than cure.
The Latest : A new dam is unlikely to be built in the place of the present one as sanction for it is difficult to get from the Supreme court and the Kerala Government is thinking about alternate ways like slowly phasing out the dam without difficulty to Tamil nadu.
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