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Mullaperiyar issue: Kerala minister for new dam
November 29, 2006 00:29 IST
Last Updated: November 29, 2006 00:31 IST
The chief ministers of Kerala and Tamil Nadu are meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday in a crucial exercise to resolve the vexed Mullaperiyar issue with a Kerala minister suggesting construction of a new dam and a fresh agreement as the only feasible solution.
Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan and his Tamil Nadu counterpart M Karunanidhi will hold talks against the backdrop of the recent spat between them following rising of the water level above the danger mark in the 111-year-old dam, triggering safety concerns.
The talks have been convened by Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz. On the eve of the talks, Kerala Water Resources Minister N K Premachandran said construction of an alternate dam near the existing reservoir was the only "feasible solution" and the state will propose this theory during the talks.
"Constructing an alternate dam is the only feasible solution. The Central Water Commission had favoured this as a permanent measure for a long-term solution way back in 1979," he told PTI.
Kerala is also of the view that a new agreement should be entered into between the states, scrapping the 999-year pact.
The two states are sharply divided over the height of the dam in Idukki district of Kerala. Water from Mullaperiyar is a prime irrigation source for the Cumbum-Theni farm belt of Tamil Nadu.
While Kerala holds that raising the storage level above 136 ft would endanger the safety of lakhs of people living downstream in five districts, Tamil Nadu wants the water level to be increased to 142 ft immediately as per the Supreme Court order.
Ahead of the talks, the Kerala chief minister held a detailed meeting with Cabinet colleagues and Law Minister M Vijayakumar in Delhi to chalk out the state's strategy for Wednesday's meeting. Senior government officials also attended the meeting.
The standoff between the states had reached a flashpoint last week when Karunanidhi threatened to pull out of the talks after Kerala sent a team of naval experts to inspect the safety of the reservoir in the wake of the water-level breaching the 136 ft mark.
Karunanidhi immediately shot off a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Kerala had to call back the team following central intervention.
Kerala's action had also triggered widespread protests in Tamil Nadu and led to exchange of some strong words between V S Achuthanandan and Karunanidhi.
Kerala maintains that it was ready to give Tamil Nadu its due share of water under the 999-year pact between the two states, but it should not come at the cost of the safety of the reservoir and people of the state.
Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, wants the water level to be increased to 142 ft as ordered by the Supreme Court and maintains that there will be no compromise on the issue.
Tamil Nadu also wants the Central Industrial Security Force to be deployed at the dam to ensure compliance of the court order.
Significantly, the apex court had on Monday asked the chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala to meet with an open mind and cautioned the two governments against arousing the emotions of the people.