New Delhi: Hours after briefing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the imminent threat to the Mullaperiyar dam in Kerala, state Water Resources Minister PJ Joseph said here on Tuesday that the dam’s collapse will put upto seven million lives in danger.
Evoking humanity to resolve the Mullaperiyar dam row at the earliest, Joseph told a press conference that “it was not a question of lives of Keralities or Malayalees, but of Indians... it’s a question of humanity”.
According to Joseph, in case Mullaperiyar dam collapses five more dams downstream would also collapse, thereby threatening seven million lives in state’s Idukki, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Pathanamthitta districts.
He said that the water flowing to Tamil Nadu would also stop as a result, adding five districts which depend on dam’s water for irrigation and electricity generation would turn into “desert”.
The row over Mullaperiyar dam started after Tamil Nadu sought an increase in the water-level in the reservoir to 142 feet. Kerala has been insisting that it be reduced from the current 136 feet to 120 feet.
The concerns over 116-year-old dam’s safety have grown in the recent past and there are fears that the structure is weakening in the wake of recurring tremors in the Iddukki district of Kerala where the dam is located. It is operated by the Tamil Nadu government by way of a lease agreement.
Joseph said 24 hours of rain caused by a depression would take the water level in the dam to 163 feet putting the dam’s safety at risk.
“The Supreme Court cannot prevent earthquake. Immediate intervention is required,” Joseph said.
Another minister said that during the meeting with the PM, they pressed for a permanent solution, which effectively means Kerala wants a new dam.
The minister added that they assured the PM that Tamil Nadu would continue to get the same amount of water if a new dam is built.
He further stated that a final decision on Kerala’s future strategy will be taken at a Cabinet meeting tomorrow, adding that all steps humanely possible will be taken to prevent the impending calamity.
However, the minister unanimously stressed that the Mullaperiyar row should be projected as a clash between Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Kerala has long stated that it is willing to construct a new dam for supplying water to Tamil Nadu, which is opposed to the move concerned over losing control over its functionality.
The Mullaperiyar dam is important for Tamil Nadu as it meets the irrigation needs of farmers in southern districts.
While meeting MPs and ministers from both states today, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh indicated that a meeting of Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala would be convened soon to discuss the contentious issue at length.
Meeting a delegation of Congress MPs from Tamil Nadu, Singh assured them that he would talk to Union Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal with regard to the issue over which the two states have been at loggerheads for a long time.