The Kerala government has moved the Supreme Court seeking a direction to Tamil Nadu not to release a huge quantity of water in the wee hours from the 126-year-old Mullaperiyar dam, saying it causes heavy damage to the people living downstream of the dam.
In an application filed in the apex court, the Kerala government has also sought a direction to the Tamil Nadu government to control the water level by releasing water from the dam throughout the day instead of releasing a huge quantity of water at the wee hours without giving sufficient warning time.
A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and CT Ravikumar is scheduled to hear on Friday the pleas which have raised issues about the dam, built in 1895 on the Periyar river in Idukki district of Kerala.
The Kerala government, in its application filed through advocate G Prakash, has said that the supervisory committee is directed to act according to the interim directions of the apex court to avoid difficulties for the people who live downstream.
It said that a ‘joint technical on-site committee for spillway release', comprising of two members each from the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, be constituted to decide on the quantity and time of surplus discharge through spillway shutters to Kerala.
The application said it should also be ensured that only based on the recommendation of the joint technical on-site committee, the surplus to Kerala would be effected with sufficient warning time to the district disaster management authority.
“Due to the erratic release of the heavy volume of water, that too without any intimation during the wee hours of the day for the last more than one week created heavy damage to the people and their property who are living in the downstream of the Mullaperiyar dam,” the application said.
It said the Kerala chief minister had sent a letter to the chief minister of Tamil Nadu for taking immediate action regarding the release of water.
It said that the apex court had on October 28 ordered that for the time being, the parties would abide by the water level notified by the expert committee.
The application said that from the last week of November onwards, the catchment area of the Mullaperiyar dam and the places in and around Idukki district experienced heavy rainfall which resulted in the increase of water level of the dam.
It said that the chief secretary of Kerala had also sent a letter dated December 7 to the chief secretary of Tamil Nadu explaining the difficulties which the people, who live on the banks of the Periyar river, face due to the sudden discharge of water for the past one week especially at night by opening spillway without sufficient intimation and that too at the wee hours.
“The heavy releases of water through the spillway that too without sufficient advance information has created undue hardship, physical and mental agony and loss of property to thousands of people living in the downstream of Mullaperiyar dam,” the application said.
It said that to avoid this contingency, an on-site committee consisting of technical members of both the states can be constituted to take stock of this kind of a situation and the panel can decide as to how and when the water from the dam can be released without creating problems to the people living downstream and their property.
The top court had on November 22 said that all the issues related to the dam would be heard on December 10.
The Kerala government had earlier told the apex court that "no amount of rejuvenation" can perpetuate the dam and there is a limit to the number of years one can keep dams in service through maintenance and strengthening measures.
It had said the only permanent solution for removing the 'eternal threat owing to the safety concerns' of the dam and for protecting the safety of lakhs of people living the downstream of Mullaperiyar dam is to build a new dam in the downstream reaches of the existing dam.
In an affidavit filed before the apex court, the Kerala government had urged that the proposal to fix the upper rule level of Mullaperiyar dam at 142 feet on September 20 as formulated by Tamil Nadu may be avoided.
In its response to the affidavit filed by Kerala, the state of Tamil Nadu had said that 'repeated assertion' of Kerala and petitioners from there in the pleas filed from time-to-time seek to decommission of the existing dam and construction of a new dam, which is 'wholly impermissible' in the light of the apex court verdict on the safety of the dam.
"The dam has been found to be hydrologically, structurally, and seismically safe,” Tamil Nadu had said.
The Tamil Nadu government had also told the apex court that "repeated assertion" by Kerala to seek decommissioning of the dam is 'wholly impermissible' as the dam is hydrologically, structurally, and seismically safe.