The Tamil Nadu government has rebutted allegations made in the Supreme Court that the Supervisory Committee for Mullaperiyar dam “abdicated its duties” to evaluate the safety of the structure and water levels.
What is the issue?
- The State countered allegations that the Supervisory Committee constituted by the top court in 2014 had “delegated” its duties to a sub-committee.
- The court had sought a reply from the State on a petition filed by Joe Joseph and office-bearers of the Kothamangalam block panchayat in Kerala, expressing their apprehension about the lack of proper supervision of water levels in the over-a-century-old dam located along the Periyar Tiger Reserve.
- The State explained that the sub-committee is chaired by the Executive Engineer, Central Water Commission (CWC), with headquarters in Kochi. It has members from both Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The sub-committee periodically inspects the dam, collects data on seepage, collects water samples from the lake and seepage water, conducts water quality tests on them and so on, and reports the details to the Supervisory Committee.
Argument of the Tamil Nadu government
- The sub-committee members do not have any powers to give direction to the States. It is only doing the job of collecting information and data pertaining to the dam once in every two months, and if required, more frequently, as per directions of the Chairman of the Supervisory Committee, and furnishing the same to the committee.
- The sub-committee is only assisting the Supervisory Committee. This cannot be called the delegation of the authority of the Supervisory Committee.
- The Mullaperiyar dam is located on the confluence of the Mullayar and Periyar rivers in Kerala’s Idukki district.
- It is operated and maintained by Tamil Nadu government for meeting the drinking water and irrigation requirements of five of its southern districts. According to a 999-year lease agreement made during the British rule, the operational rights were handed over to Tamil Nadu.
- The dam intends to divert the waters of the west-flowing river Periyar eastward to the arid rain shadow regions of the Tamil Nadu.
- The Periyar River is the longest river in the state of Kerala with a length of 244 km.
- It is also known as ‘Lifeline of Kerala’ as it is one of the few perennial rivers in the state.
- Periyar River originates from Sivagiri hills of Western Ghats and flows through the Periyar National Park.
- The main tributaries of Periyar are Muthirapuzha, Mullayar, Cheruthoni, Perinjankutti.