Memorial for engineer who built Mullaperiyar

Tamil Nadu and Kerala are locked in a bitter row over the more than 116-year-old dam.

Chennai: Amid the simmering Mullaperiar Dam row, Tamil Nadu government on Sunday announced setting up of a memorial for British engineer Col Penny Cuick, who had constructed the dam at Lower Camp in Theni district over 116
years ago.

"I am happy to announce that a memorial to thankfully remember Cuick will be built at a cost of Rs one crore and over 2500 sq ft at the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board premises in Lower Camp. Upon its completion, Cuick`s grandson will be
invited for its inauguration," Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa said in a statement here, adding a statue of the engineer will also be installed there.

She said the late army engineer had even sold his property
and completed the project amidst much difficulty and hardship.

He had used materials such as lime kurki along with big
stones to construct the dam based on the principle of gravity,
which she said, had the strength to withstand tremors and
therefore the "dam is strong even today."

Tamil Nadu and Kerala are locked in a bitter row over the
more than 116-year-old dam, with the latter wanting to replace
it with a new one citing safety reasons while Tamil Nadu has
held that the dam was strong. A case is on before the Supreme

"Since the dam has been functioning well and will remain
strong for many hundred years more, people from the southern
districts had placed a demand for constructing a memorial for
Cuick to show our gratitude," Jayalalithaa said.

By constructing the dam, "Cuick`s name had been etched in
the hearts of the local people. The proposed initiative will
be a fond remembrance of a man who paved the way for the
prosperity of south Tamil Nadu," she said.

Recalling the circumstances that led to the construction
of the dam, she said Cuick was concerned over the drought
situation in the areas dependent on water from Vaigai river
under the then Madras Presidency, and therefore planned a dam
acorss Periar river to divert water towards the Eastern side.

The works started in the presence of then Governor Lord
Connemara and Cuick and the labourers had to face hardships in
the form of wild animals, flash floods and insect bites, she
said, adding, the construction work was stalled in three years
from its start due to heavy rain and flood.

"Since no fund was available from the British rulers
within the stipulated time, Cuick returned to England to sell
his property to complete the dam. It was inaugurated in
October 1895."

"The dam benefits irrigation over 2.23 lakh acres of land
in the districts of Theni, Dindugul, Madurai, Sivaganga and
Ramanathapuram which now play a key role in meeting the food
demand of the state. It also addresses the drinking water
needs," Jayalalithaa said.


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