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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Dam and Two States


"Mulla-periyar" is the current buzzword in India. There is film based on this issue, "Dam 999", which got its entry to Oscar library. Don't think that it is the name of some celebrity infact it is bigger and larger than that, it is a dam, which is almost 110 years old, across the river Periyar (Kerala state). The dam got its name from confluence of "Mullaiyar" and "Periyar" rivers. It is built by British Corps Royal Engineers, at those time when India was a colony of Britian. When the dam was built it was under the jurisdiction of "Maharaja of Travancore" (Travancore presently a part of Kerala state) and the Madras Presidency (British) kind of forced (as every one knows, there is no other option) Travancore to get in a deal with them of leasing water supply for 999 years. After the British rule were over both the Kerala and Tamilnadu (Madras presidency) states renewed lease agreement.


Since it is a masonry gravity dam and it is 110 years old. Now it has cracks in it. Above that, for recent two or three months there had been frequent small earthquakes in those regions, which increased the risk of cracks getting serious. Since the dam is a gravity dam it is important to have an impervious foundation and enduring strength to hold the dam against the constant force applied by the water. The reservoir was only allowed to have a height of 136 feet due to its longevity. But because of rain it is now at a height of 136.4 feet, which is disturbing (Kerala is small state having a wet tropical climate, with 120-140 rainy days per year). But Tamilnadu on the other hand has a scarcity of water, and it is one of the most hottest regions in India.

Issues and dangers

Currently the issue fumes because Kerala wants to build a new dam and Tamilnadu opposes it. Kerala govt. claims it is under constant threat of a dam disaster. If the dam bursts 3 of Kerala's districts would be under water. But Tamilnadu claims Kerala is ballooning the issue and the dam is not going to burst anytime soon and they don't want the dam rebuilt b'coz they fear they would have to renew the lease agreement and would have to give current renewed price for the water supply and the electricity. Both the governments are pressurising the central govt. about this issue. They say central govt. should intervene in this issue and must find a solution. In Kerala people are protesting against state govt. and central govt. for dawdling the issue. Sometimes ago Supreme court declared a committe to submit a report about the safety of the dam. And the committee gave a clean chit to the dam. But then kerala govt. protested aginst the committe, as the committee had only one member from Kerala and they say he his over-shadowed by the other members.

It seems controversy never dies down. It is a very delicate matter since Kerala and Tamilnadu are not only neighbouring states, they share many cultural and language similarities. It has to be deal with utmost care or else the matter could get out of hands easily. Both the states are inter-dependent on many resources. Many Tamilian workers are there in Kerala and vice versa. I hope government will find a responsible and reasonable solution for this matter.