Mullaperiyar dam issue
Part of: Prelims and GS II – Separation of powers
Context The Supreme Court has directed the Supervisory Committee to take an immediate and firm decision on the maximum water level that can be maintained at Mullaperiyar dam, amid torrential rain in Kerala.
- The SC constituted a permanent Supervisory Committee in 2014 to oversee all the issues concerning Mullaperiyar dam. The dam is a source of friction between Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
What’s the issue?
- Kerala said the water level should not go above 139 feet, the same as what the court had ordered on August 24, 2018, when the State was hit by floods. It is because the lives of 50 lakh people would be in danger if the water level in the dam is raised.
- However, Tamil Nadu objected to this decision citing the Supreme Court judgments of 2006 and 2014, which fixed the maximum water level at 142 feet.
Latest recommendation of the Supervisory Committee
- The Supervisory Committee recommended in the Supreme Court that there is no need to change the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam.
- Tamil Nadu states that its water level is at 137feet.
- However, Kerala did not agree with its opinion citing that its eventual release would risk floods and endanger the lives of lakhs of people in Kerala.
What does Tamil Nadu say?
- Tamil Nadu claims that although it has undertaken measures to strengthen the dam, the Kerala government has blocked any attempt to raise the reservoir water level – resulting in losses for Madurai farmers.
What are Kerala’s arguments?
- Kerala, however, highlights fears of devastation by residents living downstream in the earthquake-prone district of Idukki.
- Scientists have argued that if there is an earthquake in the region measuring above six on the Richter scale, the lives of over three million people will come under grave danger.
- It is a masonry gravity dam built at the confluence of Mullayar and Periyar rivers.
- Although the dam is located in Kerala, it is operated by Tamil Nadu following an 1886 lease indenture for 999 years (the Periyar Lake Lease Agreement) that was signed between the Maharaja of Travancore and the Secretary of State for India for the Periyar Irrigation works.
- It was Constructed between 1887 and 1895.
- It redirected the river to flow towards the Bay of Bengal, instead of the Arabian Sea and provide water to the arid rain region of Madurai in Madras Presidency.