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Exclusive! Want amicable solution to dam issue: Kerala CM

Last updated on: December 8, 2011 00:31 IST

Exclusive! Want amicable solution to dam issue: Kerala CM


Shobha Warrier in Thiruvananthapuram
'Tamil Nadu need not have any worries at all. We are ready to give the same amount of water that they are getting now. Not a drop less,' Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy tells in an exclusive interview.

Thanks to the the Mullaperiyar dam issue, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is a worried man these days.'s Shobha Warrier spoke to Chandy, after an all-party meeting late on Wednesday night, to find out how he hopes to resolve the controversy that has cause much heart-burn in both Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Now that Tamil Nadu has agreed for discussions at the officers' level, are you satisfied with the way in which the dam issue is progressing?

I am not at all satisfied. We have a very cordial relationship with Tamil Nadu, and we want to continue the relationship.

We are ready to give water to Tamil Nadu without any interference. We are ready to guarantee continued supply of water. If there is any suspicion, we are ready to give any assurances.

But there is some ill feeling created between the people of the two states. That is very painful to me.

Who do you hold responsible for the worsening relationship between the two states? Is it because political parties are stoking passions?

I will not find fault with anybody or accuse anybody. They may be suspicious about our intentions, but I have repeatedly said we are ready to clear all their doubts and give any assurances to execute a mutual agreement or a tripartite agreement in the presence of the central government.

We are ready to give assurances before the Supreme Court. We are even ready to pass a law so that the present supply of water would be continued.

We are only concerned about the safety of the people. But, unfortunately, there is a feeling in Tamil Nadu that the situation of panic here is a created one. That is not at all correct.

Remember there was no such panic last year.

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Image: Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy, left. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa


'Tamil Nadu does not see our sincerity'

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Is it the tremors that created the panic?

That has created fear among the people living in that area.

About the number of tremors stated by you, the Tamil Nadu chief minister refuted it, saying there were only four tremors...

There were 27 tremors since July. I had sent the entire details of all the 27 tremors along with my letter to the Tamil Nadu chief minister.

It is only because of these tremors that a panic situation has developed there.

The Mullaperiyar dam has always been a safety issue for Kerala. We are worried because it is more than 100 years old. And it was built using old technology.

But Tamil Nadu has an answer for that. They say there is the 1,000-year-old dam built by Karikala Cholan still functioning...

We are worried about the safety of the dam only because of the recurrent tremors that occur in the area. We are also worried because Tamil Nadu does not see our sincerity.

What kind of situation will satisfy you and stop your worries?

We want an amicable situation so that the cordial atmosphere between the two states is not disturbed.

Tamil Nadu must understand the feelings of the people of Kerala. They must understand that we are worried about the safety of the people living there.

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Image: The Mullaperiyar dam

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'Tamil Nadu CM's response has been very negative'

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Tamil Nadu is not satisfied with the expert committee report from IIT-Rourkee. They say you have experts who are expected to come out with a report that favours Kerala. What do you have to say about this?

It seems some experts told Tamil Nadu that the dam was safe. I don't know that. But we have the report submitted by the experts from IIT-Rourkee and it says the tremors may affect the safety of the dam.

So far the maximum tremor reported showed 3.9 on the Richter Scale. Experts are of the opinion that if the tremors go beyond 6, it can cause danger to the dam and may lead to a big calamity.

When the area is reporting continuous tremors ranging from 1.5 to 3.9 on the Richter Scale, how can we keep quiet?

The report is not made by a layman, but scientists from IIT Rourkee.

Would you like to talk to the Tamil Nadu chief minister so that there is a direct interaction between the two of you?

I am ready. But when I sent a letter to the chief minister, I got a reply from her, but the tone of the letter was very negative.

Had there been any positive signal from there, I would have been ready to discuss the issue directly with her.

We want to solve this issue as fast as we can and that too in a friendly atmosphere.

For the last few days, Tamilians are being attacked here (in Kerala) and Keralites are being attacked there (Tamil Nadu).

A similar situation occurred when there was a dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and the violence got out of hand. Are you worried?

I am worried. But in our state, we have taken a very strong stand against violence.

Yesterday, we declared prohibitory orders under section 144 in two places; in Kumali and Cumbum Medu. I have directed the director general of police to arrest all people who indulge in violence.

I am told that the Tamil Nadu government is also taking similar steps to stop violence. That is a good sign.

How do you look at the political leaders making provocative statements and agitating, especially when passions are running high?

In a democratic set-up, there may be agitations and they may even use strong words. You cannot avoid that. But I see to it that this will not affect the cordial relationship between the two states.

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Image: The Mullaperiyar reservoir

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'Only a new dam can provide safety to the people of Kerala'

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Have you asked your Congress party people to stop making provocative statements?

Yes, I have issued many statements asking everyone not to create any violent situation.

Today, we had an all-party meeting and we have passed a resolution unanimously that nobody should involve in any anti social activities.

All the political parties in Kerala have agreed to this.

Here, all the political parties are ready for talks and a reasonable settlement, but some people are creating problems. That is because of the emotionally charged atmosphere.

It is the unruly elements in society who are capitalising on this volatile atmosphere.

Whatv if it goes out of hand?

We have been very careful, and so far, things are under control.

Is a new dam the only solution to the problem?

I strongly believe that only a new dam can provide safety to the people of Kerala.

Is the Kerala government ready to build the new dam without any help from anyone?

We may be in a financial crisis, but we will somehow find the resources to build a new dam. We take full responsibility. That is because our first priority is the safety of our people.

Will Tamil Nadu get the same amount of water? Their worry is that if Kerala built a new dam, they will not get the same amount of water that they get now.

They need not have any worries at all. We are ready to give the same amount of water that they are getting now.

Not a drop less.

What kind of a solution do you want?

We want a mutually agreeable solution. If that is not happening, we want a tripartite settlement with the Centre as the mediator.

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Image: The Mullaperiyar dam

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'We are not in a position to wait for the Supreme Court verdict'

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What about the Supreme Court verdict? It went against you the last time.

We are ready to accept the Supreme Court verdict, but we are not in a position to wait that long. It may take years and time is running out for us.

Are you happy with the stand the Centre has taken so far? Your Congress party is ruling at the Centre, but not many in Kerala are happy with the Centre.

We know the limitations of the central government.

What kind of limitations?

This is an inter-state dispute and the Centre can mediate only if both states agree to it. We are saying, you mediate, but Tamil Nadu is not ready for that. They have their own reservations.

They have taken a position that the Supreme Court will take a decision. We say we are ready to accept that, but we have no time for that. The ground situation is very serious.

In such a serious situation, what do you plan to do now?

The safety of the people is utmost, important. At the same time, the cordial relationship between the two states should continue. I am confident of coming out with a solution.

Have you given yourself a deadline? You said time is running out...

As far as Kerala is concerned, every hour is important.

Are you optimistic about reaching a solution soon?

I am optimistic because I am giving equal importance to the safety of the people here and maintaining a cordial relationship with our neighbouring state.

Do you feel it is high time rivers are nationalised in India?

I have put forward a special request to the Union water resources minister that the Government of India should examine all the dams in the country that are 100 years old and find out how safe they are.

What, according to you, is the reason Tamil Nadu has taken a very hard stand on this issue?

I really cannot understand. Their stand has come as a surprise to us. In independent India, there were many water disputes and all were based on the distribution of the quantum of water.

This is the first time that issue of water is not the problem, but something else.

The protestors against the Koodankulam nuclear project in Tamil Nadu also talk about the safety of the people...

I have already pointed that out.

The chief minister of Tamil Nadu is opposing the (Koodankulam) project, saying it is hazardous to the people. I am not questioning her stand.

All I want to say is that the same chief minister is not worried about the safety of the people of Kerala. This stand is painful to us.

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Image: The Mullaperiyar dam

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