Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A damned (Mullaiperiyar) dam....Needs A Solomon To Adjudicate


"Kerala will not give a drop of water to Tamil Nadu...” R Balakrishna Pillai of the Kerala Congress (B


The States Reorganisation Commission in its report submitted in 1955 found 90 per cent of the population of Peermedu and Devikulam taluks of present-day Idukki district was Tamil and recommended its cession to Tamil Nadu.
K Kamaraj, then Chief Minister, refused to stake his claim to annex the two taluks. Had he done so, the present dispute would not have arisen.
By Sam Rajappa
A 116-year-old dam in Peermedu taluk of Idukki district, Kerala, is giving sleepless nights to the UPA government and the Supreme Court. Constructed by Major John Pennycuick of the Madras Regiment on an 8,000-odd acre piece of land in the high ranges given on 999-year-lease to the then Madras Presidency by the erstwhile Maharaja of Travancore, the 15 tmcft. storage capacity Mullaiperiyar dam was to divert its waters to the rain-shadow region of Tamil Nadu. 
The idea of diverting the Periyar into Madurai existed for more than 150 years. A small beginning was made in 1850 but was given up as labourers demanded high wages to work in the malaria-infested region. The lease agreement was signed on 29 October 1885, and work on the project was completed in 1895. Ever since, the dam had been under the administrative control of the Public Works Department of Madras and later the Tamil Nadu government. 
Apart from providing drinking water to the people of Madurai, Theni, Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram, the diverted waters helped irrigate about 70,000 hectares of parched land in these districts.  The Kerala government wants to abrogate the lease agreement, decommission and dismantle the dam and build a new one half a kilometer downstream at its cost to ensure uninterrupted water supply to Tamil Nadu at the existing level. 
A 130-page government report says: “There is a limit to the number of years one can keep dams in service through maintenance and strengthening measures. In the case of the Mullaiperiyar dam, it has to be there for another 884 years for diverting water to Tamil Nadu as per the lease deed.  This is an impossible proposition. All over the world, safety of dams are being reviewed as per modern standards and hundreds of dams have already been dismantled considering the safety aspects of human life and property.”
Age does not wither a dam. Karikala Chola built Kallanai  (Grand Anicut), the world’s oldest dam, across the Cauvery, south of the temple town of Srirangam in Tiruchirapali district, in the second century AD. It is still functional and continues to irrigate about 4,000 sq. km. in the delta region, the granary of Tamil Nadu.  
The secret of the longevity of Kallanai is its regular maintenance. People in the delta are not living in fear of the aged dam bursting. Sir Arthur Cotton transformed the entire Godavari-Krishna delta into rich agricultural lands by constructing the Godavari anicut, and Dowleswaram and Krishna barrages between 1845 and 1855.  
To get approval for the Godavari anicut, he wrote to the Secretary of State for India in London,: “My Lord, one day’s flow in the Godavari during high floods is equal to one whole year’s flow in the Thames.” All the irrigation structures built by Sir Arthur Cotton are much older than the Mullaiperiyar dam and are functional. Like the more than 1,900-year-old Kallanai in Tamil Nadu, the Andhra Pradesh PWD maintains the Godavari and the Krishna dams and no one in coastal Andhra would dream of demanding decommissioning and dismantling them.
There is a story behind the Kerala government’s demand for demolishing the Mullaiperiyar dam. 
It does not like the idea of a neighbouring State having control over 8,000-odd acres of land in its territory.  Having failed in its attempt to get the 1885 Lease Deed declared null and void through legal means, it sued for upward revision of lease rents and won.
 In 1970, the enlightened Kerala Chief Minister C Achutha Menon renewed the lease agreement on terms much better than the 1885 ones.  He never raised the safety issue of the dam because he had confidence in the ability of the Tamil Nadu engineers to protect it. He wanted the fishing rights in the Mullaiperiyar reservoir to be transferred to Kerala. Tamil Nadu readily agreed.  Six years later the Idukki dam, 30 km downstream of the Mullaiperiyar dam on the Periyar, with a capacity to store 71 tmcft. water, was completed as a hydroelectric project. The expectation was the dam would fill to the brim twice in a year, during both the north-west and the south-east monsoons. That never happened in the first two years. 
It was then the late K Karunakaran and engineers of the Kerala State Electricity Board who came out with the strange idea of creating panic in Kerala that the Mullaiperiyar dam was in danger of bursting and the lives and properties of 35 lakh people living in the districts of Idukki, Kottayam, Alapuzha and Ernakulam were in danger and request the Tamil Nadu government to perform the obsequies of the dam. 
It was a clever ploy to kill two birds with one stone.  Idukki would get its fill and the land lease would become redundant.
It worked in part. The Kerala media excelled in spreading panic among the people. What began in 1978 in the print media has since spread to the electronic media and culminated in the release last Friday of Warner Brother’s English film, Dam 999 directed by Sohan Roy of Kochi at a cost of Rs 50 crore and dubbed in Malayalam and Tamil.
 A whole generation of Keralites have been brought up on the fear of death by drowning. 
As Adolf Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, “The great many of people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one.” Even a seasoned thinker like the retired Supreme Court Judge, VR Krishna Iyer, could not see through the game. Quoting the Rio de Jeneiro Declaration on Environment and Development of the UN conference (1992), he wrote in an article published in a leading daily, “The Central government is duty-bound to save every Indian’s life. Federalism does not absolve the Centre from failing to avoid the huge casualties that could be caused by an incident of leakage from the Mullaiperiyar dam. The due jurisprudence implied in the Rio instruments are international in impact and it cannot be violated by signatories like India.”
The materials Major Pennycuick used to construct the Mullaiperiyar dam are the same Karikala Chola used for the Kallanai 1900 years ago: stone and surki. In 1930, Tamil Nadu engineers responsible for its maintenance bored 80 holes in the dam and injected 40 tonnes of cement solution to plug seepage. Again in 1933, grouting technology was used to strengthen the dam. In 1960, 502 tonnes of cement solution was injected. All this was done without any outside prodding. After the scare-mongering in 1978, New Delhi deputed an expert team of the Central Water Commission to inspect the dam. Though it did not find any fault with the dam, it recommended temporary lowering of its storage level from 152 ft. to 136 ft., thereby reducing its capacity from 15 tmcft. to just 10 tmcft., to allay the fears of Kerala. Since then, a reinforced concrete cap was put on the dam to increase its weight by 12,000 tonnes and cable anchoring was done to withstand tremors.
In the unlikely event of the dam bursting in spite of all these safety measures, the entire water will flow into the Idukki dam, 30 km. downstream.  There are no big towns in this short stretch of sparsely populated forest area. Of the two medium-size towns, Kumuli is located at an altitude of 3,350 metres and Elapara 4,850 metres above sea level whereas the Mullaiperiyar reservoir is at an altitude of 2,890 metres.
Therefore, the dam is of no threat to its inhabitants. Kerala’s allegation that the Tamil Nadu government is indifferent to the lives of Malayalees is a travesty of truth. Eighty per cent of the people living between the two dams are Tamils. 
The States Reorganisation Commission in its report submitted in 1955 found 90 per cent of the population of Peermedu and Devikulam taluks of present-day Idukki district was Tamil and recommended its cession to Tamil Nadu.
K Kamaraj, then Chief Minister, refused to stake his claim to annex the two taluks. Had he done so, the present dispute would not have arisen.

After the release of Dam 999, politicians in Kerala have literally gone berserk as their behaviour in Parliament on Monday reveals. The frequent question they ask is: Can’t the people of Tamil Nadu recognise the imminent danger 35 lakh Keralites of central Kerala are exposed to and persuade their government to decommission the Mullaiperiyar immediately on their generous offer of continued supply of the Periyar waters from the proposed new dam to be built on Kerala soil. R Balakrishna Pillai of the Kerala Congress (B), a founding constituent of the ruling United Democratic Front, once declared in the State Assembly when he was the irrigation minister, “Kerala will not give a drop of water to Tamil Nadu.” The entire House applauded. Is it fair on the part of Kerala politicians to ask Tamil Nadu to give up its only legal hold on the Mullaiperiyar, the 1885 Lease Deed, and dismantle the dam when it poses no threat to anybody?   
The writer is a veteran journalist and former Director of Statesman Print Journalism School

28 comments:

  1. Comparison with Kallanai is ludicrous as its height is just 5.4 mts where as Mullaperiyar is 53 mts. Also, the recent problems are mostly due to the frequent tremors nearby the dam.
    Western Ghats where mullaperiyar dam is situated is earthquake zone 3, means possibility of range upto 6 in Richter scale can be possible.

    Dams typically fails
    1. In rainy flood season due to wrong design of spillway
    Example: Morvi - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morvi_dam_failure
    St. Francis Dam - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Francis_Dam
    2. Underlying changes in the tectonic plates due to weight of water storage and possible earthquakes in the area.
    Example:
    Recent Japan quake - Fujinuma Dam - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fujinuma_Dam

    People in Tamil Nadu do not seem to worry too much if the dam breaks as the water will flow westwards to Arabian Sea. Ancient port city of Muziris was wiped off because one the great floods of 1300's. In the event of break of Mullaperiyar and in turn other dams adjacent to it, the entire City of Kochi will be destroyed. People do not wait for a disaster to happen if they already know it is coming, they act on it to mitigate the problem. Having said this, the dam can break tomorrow or fifty years from now or even while in the middle of constructing a new dam. No one has the ability to predict the nature.

    As far as States re-organization is concerned, is it acceptable now for Kerala to ask for part of coimbatore or Kanyakumari to be added to Kerala because of large number of keralites living there. Or for that matter, Hosur to be added to Karnataka or Andhra ?

    If the Dam fails, it is shame for India as a self proclaimed super power, regardless of being Tamilian or a Keralite. May be a negotiated settlement is the need of the hour.

    Best regards,
    Your friend.

    ReplyDelete
  2. foolishness....., shame on u.....

    ReplyDelete
  3. (1) Why do you view this as an emotional issue? Keralites do not view this issue as a dispute between the two states. Please don't try to whip up Tamil sentiments. Talk objectively.
    (2) Why don't you see sense in building a new dam? Why do you conveniently forget that the lifespan of the dam at the time of construction was estimated to be 50 years.
    (3) What is the problem in building a new structure to replace the old one? Tamil Nadu should work out a political solution with Kerala, insisting on a modified agreement, which enjoins Kerala to supply the same amount of water to Tamil Nadu. What would Tamil Nadu lose, if such an agreement replaces the old agreement?
    (4) Now, come to the real reason behind Tamil Nadu's reluctance to the new dam.... Tamil Nadu wants exclusive rights on the dam, same as the rights they possess now. Tamil Nadu wants water cheap. Tamil Nadu wants to produce electricity from Periyar waters and not pay for it. Money is the real problem.
    (5) Dear brother, Saravanan.. I am eager to know your opinion on Kudankulam Atomic Reactor. I took part in an agitation in Kerala against the reactor. Many of my friends did. Most of the Keralites support the cause of the people of Kudankulam. And, we don't intend to stop the movement for the reason that the reactor is in Tamil Nadu.
    (6) Objective thinking would make you see the sense. I hope you understood the 'money-angle' well.

    With warm regards
    Anaghan

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've been browsing online more than 4 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It's pretty worth enough
    for me. In my opinion, if all webmasters and bloggers made good
    content as you did, the web will be a lot more useful than ever before.


    My weblog: body aline back exercise machine

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'd like to thank you for the efforts you've put in writing this blog.
    I am hoping to check out the same high-grade blog posts
    by you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my very own site
    now ;)

    My web blog :: a Knockout post

    ReplyDelete
  6. We are a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community.

    Your site provided us with valuable information
    to work on. You have done a formidable job and our whole community will
    be grateful to you.

    Here is my web-site ... my response

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi to all, it's truly a pleasant for me to go to see this site, it consists of precious Information.

    Feel free to visit my web blog :: ubiquinol heart

    ReplyDelete
  8. I leave a response when I especially enjoy a article on a site or if I have something to
    contribute to the discussion. Usually it is a result of the passion displayed in the article I browsed.
    And after this article "A damned (Mullaiperiyar) dam....Needs A Solomon To Adjudicate".
    I was moved enough to drop a leave a responsea response ;)
    I do have a couple of questions for you if you don't mind. Is it simply me or does it seem like some of the responses come across as if they are left by brain dead folks? :-P And, if you are posting on other online sites, I would like to keep up with anything new you have to post. Could you list all of all your public sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

    Review my web site :: read what he said

    ReplyDelete
  9. You ought to take part in a contest for one of the greatest
    blogs on the internet. I most certainly will recommend
    this website!

    Also visit my website; this guy

    ReplyDelete
  10. This piece of writing will help the internet viewers for building up new website or
    even a blog from start to end.

    Here is my web-site - solid color table covers

    ReplyDelete
  11. If some one needs to be updated with latest technologies
    afterward he must be visit this web site and be up to
    date everyday.

    Also visit my web page - on front page

    ReplyDelete
  12. Excellent blog here! Also your web site loads up fast!

    What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?

    I wish my web site loaded up as fast as yours lol

    Here is my web site :: capture his heart and make him love you forever

    ReplyDelete
  13. I need to to thank you for this great read!!
    I certainly loved every bit of it. I've got you bookmarked to look at
    new things you post?

    Here is my blog - mobilier design gonflable

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi, Neat post. There's an issue together with your site in web explorer,
    would test this? IE still is the market leader and a good part of
    other people will pass over your magnificent writing because of this problem.


    my web-site - read review

    ReplyDelete
  15. If some one wants to be updated with most up-to-date
    technologies afterward he must be go to see this web site and be up to date all the time.


    Here is my web page :: project builder download mac

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi there, I check your blogs regularly. Your story-telling
    style is witty, keep it up!

    Feel free to surf to my web page; locksmith car tools

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and
    found that it is really informative. I'm going to watch out for brussels.
    I'll be grateful if you continue this in future. A lot of people will
    be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

    Here is my web blog :: how to grow marijuana indoors with soil

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hello to all, how is the whole thing, I think every one is getting more from
    this web page, and your views are good in support
    of new people.

    Look into my blog :: how to grow marijuana outdoors

    ReplyDelete
  19. It's in fact very complex in this active life to listen news on TV,
    so I only use world wide web for that reason, and obtain the most up-to-date information.


    Here is my homepage view

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hey there, You've done an incredible job. I'll definitely digg it and personally suggest to my friends.
    I am confident they will be benefited from this site.


    Also visit my webpage; On front page

    ReplyDelete
  21. What's up to every body, it's my first pay a visit
    of this website; this web site includes remarkable and really excellent information designed for readers.



    Feel free to surf to my weblog ... advice

    ReplyDelete
  22. When someone writes an paragraph he/she maintains the idea of a user
    in his/her brain that how a user can understand it.
    Therefore that's why this paragraph is great. Thanks!


    Look at my web blog ... strategy games for ipad

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hi, I check your blog on a regular basis. Your humoristic style is awesome, keep doing what you're
    doing!

    my blog post ... updated blog post

    ReplyDelete
  24. Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
    Look advanced to far added agreeable from you! However, how can we communicate?


    My web blog :: male enhancement reviews

    ReplyDelete
  25. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.

    I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message home
    a little bit, but other than that, this is great blog.
    A fantastic read. I'll definitely be back.

    Here is my blog :: Corporate Video Production

    ReplyDelete
  26. Great site you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any message boards that cover the same
    topics talked about here? I'd really like to be a part of group where
    I can get responses from other experienced people that share the same interest.
    If you have any recommendations, please let me know.
    Thanks!

    Here is my webpage; see

    ReplyDelete
  27. If you do not contain the contract papers together with you or are
    puzzled by anything, then you should get hold of
    your lender or finance sponsor Nike Air Max Outlet it is barely constructive
    instead from the clients but too instead of the planners to rectify their faults.

    ReplyDelete