Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Saturday had a closed-door meeting on the Mullaperiyar Dam issue with an invited group of media persons from Tamil Nadu but he politely requested the local media here to leave the room before the talks began.
Chandy told a news agency ahead of the meeting that he wanted to brief the media in Tamil Nadu on the contentious issue. Additional chief secretary K. Jayakumar briefed the media here on what transpired in the 90-minute meet.
"The chief minister conveyed to them that a new dam at Mullaperiyar is not something that has surfaced recently. In 1973, it was decided by a joint committee that a new dam has to be built and the site was also decided," Jayakumar said.
The Tamil Nadu media pointed out that Kerala was creating a fear and only four tremors, and not 26 as claimed by Kerala, have been recorded by the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
"The chief minister then presented the list of 26 tremors that hit the Idukki district since July last year. Only tremors over three on the Richter Scale get recorded in the IMD reports," Jayakumar said.
He added that the media team asked Chandy if he was willing to have a dialogue with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa. The Kerala chief minister instantly said he would be glad to have a meeting.
"The meeting that took place could possibly be the first step to set the ball rolling for a likely meeting between the two chief ministers," Jayakumar said.
In reply to a question from the Tamil media, Chandy replied that the state will have no qualms to abide by whatever the Supreme Court ruled on the vexed Mullaperiyar Dam issue, which is currently before it.
Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been at loggerheads over the dam, which was built under an 1886 accord between the then Maharaja of Travancore and the erstwhile British Raj. The dam, which is located in Kerala, serves Tamil Nadu.
The Tamil Nadu government wants the storage capacity to be increased by raising the dam`s height from 136 feet (41.5 metre) to 142 feet (43 metre) to meet the state`s irrigation needs.
The Kerala government is apprehensive of this and says that given the condition of the dam, a strong earthquake could cause widespread destruction in the state.
The state government is seeking a new dam and has offered to fund and build it but the Tamil Nadu government has strongly opposed it.
Experts say if a quake strikes, over four million people and their property in the Idukki, Kottayam, Alappuzha and Ernakulam districts and parts of Thrissur would be affected.