A decades-long tussle between Tamil Nadu and Kerala took a new turn on Tuesday with Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan saying that “something new needs to be done” about the Mullaperiyar dam.
"I think already everybody knows that the dam is very old. So something new needs to be done. But how to reach an amicable settlement, that is something on which people are working on the matter,” he said.
The comment assumes significance as the Supreme Court had asked both the states to inform it about the water level in the dam by Wednesday. The Supreme Court, after rapping both the states for complicating the issue, had asked the supervisory committee to take a "firm decision" on the maximum water level to be maintained in Mullaperiyar dam. Both states are members of the supervisory committee.
The Mullaperiyar dam, built in 1895 on the Periyar river of Kerala, is being operated by the Tamil Nadu government for irrigation and power-generation needs. Kerala has been insisting on building a new dam, citing safety concerns, for quite some time, but Tamil Nadu has been insisting that the existing structure was strong.
As of 9am on Tuesday, the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam was 137.60 ft. Kerala has been warning that the water level remaining above 137 ft poses the danger of a dam break, but Tamil Nadu has wanted to raise it to higher levels. The matter had reached the SC earlier too and it had said in 2014 that the water level could be maintained at 142 ft. But the Supreme Court in August had ruled that the water level should be maintained at 139 ft considering the heavy rains that were happening in Kerala.
Control of the dam has been a touchy matter between the two states for quite some time. The dam is located in Kerala but operated by Tamil Nadu as per an agreement signed during the colonial era. The issue became a focal point again as Kerala had been witnessing heavy rains and floods in the past one week and there have been concerns about the safety of the century-old dam.
It had become a political issue, with both the ruling and the opposition parties in Kerala raising concerns over the rising water level. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had written a letter to his Tamil Nadu counterpart, M.K. Stalin, regarding better coordination among the two states. He had also slammed the social media scaremongers who claimed that Mullaperiyar dam was in danger.