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Now, VHP wants a temple in a reservoir

By George Iype in Kochi
July 22, 2003 21:01 IST
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The Vishwa Hindu Parishad says it will not rest till a shrine for Lord Ayyappa is rebuilt in the reservoir of India's biggest arch dam at Idukki in Kerala.

But environmentalists and officials aren't exactly applauding the outfit's 'strange' demand saying any construction in the reservoir would damage the ecology and upset electricity generation in the state.

Environmentalists Thomas Kurien and Raghunath Varma, who have conducted extensive ecological studies in the hilly Idukki district, say the demand is 'dangerous'. "Why is that the VHP wants to build a temple in the reservoir while they are free to construct any number of temples across the country anywhere?" Varma asked.

"A temple in the reservoir would be an ecological disaster. If thousands of devotees go to pray in the proposed temple, it would also be a security threat," he added.

The 550-feet-high and 650-feet-wide Idukki dam is India's first arch dam constructed across the Kuravan and Kurathi hills in Idukki. The hydroelectric power station in Idukki with a catchment area of 649.30 sq km serves as the main artery of Kerala's power needs.

But VHP local leaders say a temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappa existed on the site; but it was submerged in 1974 after the reservoir got filled.

Thus in April this year, a group of VHP activists, with the help of some Hindu priests, began rebuilding the temple when the water in the reservoir was low. They claimed their reconstruction efforts began after local Hindus told them that they wanted to worship there.

But the Kerala State Electricity Board that manages the dam and reservoir has petitioned the high court asking for a ban on the construction.

The petition contended that if the construction was allowed any further, the reservoir's water level would have to be lowered permanently.

VHP leaders, who have challenged the KSEB petition, claim that rituals were not followed when the temple was relocated in 1976.

VHP Idukki district president K N Rajendran told "But all agree that there existed a temple and the local people here want to rebuild it. We do not know why the KSEB and some vested interests are opposing it."

He said the Deva Prasnam has already been conducted under the guidance of three astrologers "Many people would not agree with me. But I feel that it is truly divine for a temple to be in the reservoir. It could even help Kerala to solve its power and water shortages," Rajendran contends.

But KSEB officials think otherwise. "It is against the government rules and the environmental guidelines. The reservoir area also forms part of the highly protected Periyar wildlife sanctuary at Thekady," KSEB deputy director K R Gopalakrishnan told

Gopalakrishnan, however, admits there was a temple in Ayyappankovil, which was submerged after the dam was commissioned. But as compensation, he added, the KSEB had paid Rs 100,000 and eight acres of land to a local Hindu trust to build a new temple. The new temple was built in the adjoining village of Thoppipala.

Officials now reckon the biggest mistake the KSEB did was not to demolish the old temple.

Though the court has ordered status quo to be maintained on the issue, VHP leaders say they would campaign across the state to ensure the temple is rebuilt in the reservoir.

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George Iype in Kochi
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