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Mullaperiyar, again: The solution must balance Kerala’s risks and Tamil Nadu’s needs

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Late last month, the apex court had asked the permanent Supervisory Committee to give its opinion on the Kerala government’s plea.Late final month, the apex court docket had requested the everlasting Supervisory Committee to provide its opinion on the Kerala authorities’s plea.

The Supreme Court docket will hear as soon as once more hear the Mullaperiyar dam matter this week. A PIL has urged the court docket to direct the Central Water Fee (CWC) to repair the rule curve, instrumentation scheme, and gate operation scheduled whereas, one of many respondents, the Kerala authorities had sought the fixing of the utmost water-level of the dam’s reservoir at 139 ft.

Late final month, the apex court docket had requested the everlasting Supervisory Committee to provide its opinion on the Kerala authorities’s plea. Keep in mind, the committee, in 2006, had opined the water stage could possibly be maintained safely at 142 ft; Tamil Nadu, which owns and operates the dam, has lengthy maintained it is a storage stage that may be dealt with safely. Nonetheless, in 2018, following the devastating floods in Kerala, the SC had allowed the extent to be introduced right down to 139 ft having earlier, in 2014, allowed it to be restored to 142 ft.

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The considerations over the protection of the dam—mendacity in a Seismic-Zone-3 space—made operational in 1895 are usually not of current classic. Certainly, as soon as these have been flagged in 1979, the CWC introduced down the utmost water-level from full reservoir water-level of 152 ft to 136 ft. However, by the mid-Nineties, Tamil Nadu was demanding this be revised upwards. The stakes for Tamil Nadu are excessive. The reservoir is a lifeline for the water-scare southern districts of the state—the diversion of twenty-two thousand million cubic ft of water yearly from the reservoir not simply helps irrigate 2.20 lakh acres of farm-land, but additionally caters for the drinking-water wants in these districts. Any change in quantum of water provide can upend each farm livelihoods and water safety.

However, for Kerala, which has seen cataclysmic rainfall over the previous few years thanks largely to local weather change—marked by devastation exacerbated by ecological degradation in surrounding areas—the problem is existential. The placement of the dam in a seismically-active area and the age and soundness of the dam’s construction compound the menace from cloudbursts.

At 126 years, Mullaperiyar is well beyond a dam’s ‘wholesome’ lifespan of fifty years. Research carried out by IITs Delhi and Roorkee, each commissioned by the Kerala authorities, had red-flagged the protection of the dam, as has a 2021 report by the United Nations College Institute for Water, Surroundings and Well being. The Kerala authorities has made submissions to the apex court docket on decommissioning of the dam, constructing a brand new one as a replacement.

Nonetheless, the Tamil Nadu authorities had rejected the concept of a brand new dam.

In opposition to this backdrop, fixing the rule curve and so on is a short-term measure; even when mounted anew, it isn’t going to resolve the matter and the dispute will linger. Whereas the management within the two states have affirmed religion in persevering with negotiations, the necessity for a everlasting repair can’t be overemphasised—extra so with the uncertainties that local weather change will worsen within the coming a long time. The case for decommissioning the dam is a robust one given its security and the very obvious dangers to Kerala. The necessity now’s to discover a approach to stability Tamil Nadu’s pursuits whereas shifting in direction of this.

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