Kerala dam issue: Govt informs HC about safety

Kerala govt informed HC that in the light of concerns over the safety of the 116-year-old Mullaiperiyar dam, various measures would be undertaken.

Kochi: Kerala government on Friday informed the
state high court that in the light of concerns over the safety
of the 116-year-old Mullaiperiyar dam, various measures such
as installation of digital sensors, early warning systems and
digital seismographs would be undertaken by it.

In an affidavit, the government said it had identified 450
families (living near the dam) which are to be evacuated on a
war-footing in the event of an emergency.

The statement was filed before a division bench comprising
Acting Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice PR
Ramachandra Menon on a batch of petitions expressing
apprehensions over the safety of the dam.

The petitions were filed in the backdrop of the dam issue
hotting up with Kerala mounting pressure for building a new
reservoir across Mullaperiyar apprehending threat to the
safety of the dam. Tamil Nadu is opposing the move saying it
would deprive its share of water for irrigation.

The affidavit said the Disaster Management Department has
decided to install digital sensors downstream the Mullaperiyar
Dam to monitor the water level on a daily basis.

The installation of the first group of sensors was being
completed after identifying the most suitable locations, the
government stated in the affidavit.

Besides, Tamil Nadu will be asked to reduce the water level
from 136 feet to 120 feet since the dam is operated by them.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has also written to his Tamil
Nadu counterpart, it was stated.

When the matter came up before the bench, Advocate General
KP Dhandapani blamed the media for creating panic (in the
past few days over safety of the dam).

The bench disagreed with it saying they (media) were doing
their duty. The court observed if that was the case, `why was
everyone rushing to Delhi and why were several committees
being formed here.`

It directed the government to inform about the time taken
for the waters from the Mullaiperiyar to reach Idukki,
Kulamavu and Cheruthoni dams, all located in Idukki district.

The court also wanted to know the time taken for draining
water from Idukki Dam into Arabian sea and directed the AG to
bring technical experts before the court on December 6.

The bench had earlier in the day asked the government to
inform it by 1 pm today the water level at Idukki, Cheruthoni
and Kulamavu dams and raised various questions on the capacity
and water level of Mullaiperiyar and three other dams.

Earlier, the bench also wanted to know from the government
steps taken to lower the water level in these dams and said
`the verbal exercise will not do`.

The AG said a high level meeting with the participation of
Naval officers will be convened.

The court asked the Government whether it was prepared to
take help from Army anticipating threat to the dam.

The government affidavit said in the event of `failure` of
Mullaiperiyar Dam, flood waters would necessarily reach the
Idukki reservoir and Kulamavu and Cheruthoni dams. Hence it
was decided to reduce water level in Idukki and other dams.

It also said infrared-camera based early warning system was
being installed urgently in the vicinity of Mullaperiyar dam,
idukki dam and some areas between and along the river bank.

Since the vulnerability of the dam was also attributed to
the enhanced seismic activity in Idukki district, three
digital seismographs would be installed in the district and
required funds have already been transferred.

The state government has constituted a Hazard,
Vulnerability and Risk Assessment cell under the combined
auspices of Department of Revenue, Kerala state Disaster
Management Authority and Centre for Earth Sciences Studies. A
disaster contingency plan would be prepared in the shortest
possible time and mock drills would be conducted.


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