Mullaperiyar dam row: Strike hits normal life in Kerala`s Idukki

By Ritesh K Srivastava | Last Updated: Thursday, May 8, 2014 - 12:27

Zee Media Bureau/Ritesh K Srivastava

Thiruvananthapuram: The dawn-to-dusk strike called by the Mullaperiyar Protection Council in the wake of the Supreme Court`s nod to raise the height of the Mullaperiyar Dam case on Thursday hit normal life in Idukki district but evoked little response in other districts of Kerala.

The strike was called to express apprehensions of the people over the apex court order Wednesday which rejected most of the contentions of Kerala government including the demand for construction of a new dam in the long-drawn dispute with Tamil Nadu.

An apex court constitution bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha, while striking down the Kerala Irrigation Water Conservation Act, said yesterday that the water level could be increased to 142 feet.

Holding that there was no threat to the safety of the 120-year old dam, the apex court also set up a three-member committee under whose supervision the water level will be increased from 136 feet to 142 feet.

To allay the apprehension of Kerala, the highest Court said that the three-member committee comprising a representative of the Central Water Commission and a representative each from Kerala and Tamil Nadu will carry out regular inspections.

The Supreme Court`s verdict is a setback to Kerala`s efforts to pull down the dam on the grounds of it being unsafe and then build a new dam.

As soon as the verdict came out, people living in and around the dam near Idukki district expressed their resentment.

"We expect all political parties to cooperate with our move to call for a shutdown to protest against the verdict," said Joy Nirappel, who heads the Mullaperiyar Action Council.
The Congress-led United Democratic Front in Idukki district has decided to join the shutdown, while the Communist Party of India-Marxist decided not to take part in it.

After the apex court verdict, the Kerala government decided to file a review petition in the Supreme Court against its latter`s verdict. Addressing reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting, state`s Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that it was most unfortunate that such a verdict has come and it had been have decided to file a review petition before the same bench.

He said an all party meeting would be called to discuss what needs to be done.

"Kerala`s demand for a new dam was just and our policy all through was water for Tamil Nadu and safety for Kerala. This dam has done service for more than 119 years and a new dam has to come either today or tomorrow,” he said.
"The people in the dam area say they want it now and it was a fair demand because they are living in fear. Anyway Kerala has never ever whipped up passion in this issue and it will continue to maintain calm and we as a government will do everything to soothe the feelings of the people living in and around the dam," said Chandy.

Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been at loggerheads over the Mullaperiyar dam, built under an 1886 pact between the then Maharaja of Travancore and the erstwhile British Raj.

While the dam is located in Kerala, its waters serve Tamil Nadu. Kerala is seeking a new dam and has offered to build and fund it but Tamil Nadu has not agreed to this and has been engaged in a long and protracted legal battle that came to an end yesterday.

Leader of Opposition VS Achuthanandan said that through the judgement, the fears of 3.5 million people living in five districts in Idukki, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Alappuzaha will rise as the safety of the dam is in serious doubt.=

"The Kerala Assembly had unanimously passed an act to this effect and it appears that both the centre and the apex court have not given it much seriousness. I wish that the state government immediately calls a special session of the assembly to discuss this burning issue," he said.

With PTI inputs

First Published: Thursday, May 8, 2014 - 09:17

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