Mullaperiyar Dam Row: 2 Shutters Opened To Maintain Water Level; Kerala’s Idukki On High Alert

Two shutters of Mullaperiyar dam were opened after India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a heavy to very rainfall warning for five states.

Mullaperiyar Dam-ANI Image
Mullaperiyar Dam (ANI:Image)

New Delhi: Two shutters of Mullaperiyar dam were opened today early morning, following a rise in its water level, in the presence of Kerala Water Resource Minister Roshy Augustine and Revenue minister K Rajan on Friday.

Amid the concern over the rise in water level in Mullaperiyar Dam due to heavy rainfall, Kerala Water Resources Minister Roshy Augustine had inspected the dam site on Thursday.

Two shutters of Mullaperiyar dam were opened today at 7 AM after India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a heavy to very rainfall warning for Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka from October 28 to November 1.

“Heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated/few places very likely over Tamil Nadu and isolated heavy rainfall over Kerala & Mahe during October 28-November 1, 2021. Heavy rainfall at isolated places is very likely over Coastal Andhra Pradesh during October 28-October 31 with isolated very heavy falls on October 29. Heavy rainfall at isolated places very likely over Coastal & South Interior Karnataka on October 31 and over Rayalaseema during October 29-October 30,” said IMD in a series of tweets.

Kerala Water Resource Minister Roshy Augustine and Revenue minister K Rajan at Mullaperiyar dam on Oct 29, 2021. (ANI Photo)

Supreme Court on Thursday had asked the Kerala and Tamil Nadu governments to abide by the decision taken by Supervisory Committee regarding the appropriate water level in the Mullaperiyar dam on the Periyar river in Kerala.

The Supreme court said the water level would be maintained at 139.5 feet till November 10 in the over-a-century-old Mullaperiyar dam.

Kerala’s Idukki Dam on Alert

Evacuation of people living downstream of Mullaperiyar dam has begun as a measure of abundant caution ahead of Tamil Nadu raising its shutters on Friday morning, Kerala Water Resources Minister Roshy Augustine said on Oct 28.

The minister said, in a release, that Tamil Nadu will open the dam’s shutters at 7.00 AM tomorrow and water will be released to maintain its level at 138 feet till October 31.

He said that there was nothing to be concerned about and people need not panic as the storage capacity of Idukki was 70.5 TMC as compared to 12.758 TMC of Mullaperiyar and therefore, the water released from the latter would only raise the former’s level by a quarter of a foot. “Therefore, Idukki will be able to contain the water released from the Mullaperiyar,” the minister said.

ALSO READ: Kerala Asks TN To Maintain Water In Mullaperiyar Dam At 137 Feet

Meanwhile, state Revenue Minister K Rajan, while speaking to a news channel, said evacuation of people began from Thursday morning and was being carried out in three phases. A maximum of 859 families comprising 3,320 members may have to be moved, he said and added that the government has made arrangements to accommodate them in camps.

Two shutters of Mullaperiyar dam were opened on Oct 29, 2021. (ANI Photo)

Augustine, in the release, said that as the water level in the 24 kilometre stretch from Mullaperiyar to Idukki is expected to rise by about 60 centimetre, a total of 1,079 people from 350 families who would be affected by the two-foot-high flood have been evacuated. All the preparations made during the opening of the Idukki dam have been taken ahead of the opening of the Mullaperiyar dam, he said. He also said that all the departments like Revenue, Health, Fire Force, Forest and Police have formed special teams and completed the security arrangements. Besides that police would be patrolling the areas where people have been evacuated from their homes.

Mullaperiyar Dam

Mullaperiyar Dam was built in 1895 on the Periyar River in the Idukki district of Kerala. A bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar said it would be open to the committee to review its decision about water level if the situation warrants it. “To assuage the apprehension of the parties we place on record, for the time being, the parties will abide by the water level notified by the expert committee,” said the bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar.

“Needless to observe that it will be open to the committee to review its decision from time to time including on hour to hour basis if the situation so warrants,” it said. The top court posted the matter for hearing on November 11 to enable Kerala to file a better affidavit, especially to deal with the issue on the rule curve and about the correct approach in that regard. It said Kerala would file an affidavit on or before November 8 and it would be open to the parties to file affidavits or pleadings through e-filing before the next date of hearing.

READ ALSO: Kerala Government Says Efforts On To Amicably Resolve Mullaperiyar Dam Issue

On Oct 28, Kerala submitted a written note saying the dam is a 126-year-old composite gravity dam, and the hearting of the dam, which accounts for more than 60 per cent of its volume, was constructed with lime-surkhi concrete. “Quite understandably, seismic forces were not considered in its design. Inspite of strengthening measures taken twice, presently the dam is in deteriorating condition due to its age,” it said.

Kerala further said there would be an exponential increase in the water pressure and uplift pressure acting on the dam when the water level is raised from 136 feet to 142 feet. “The consequences of any failure of this dam could be extremely catastrophic and beyond human imagination. The apprehensions of the Government of Kerala regarding the life and safety of more than 30 lakh people of five districts residing downstream of the dam has to be given due importance and consideration,” it said, adding, “Mullaperiyar, therefore, is exceptionally vulnerable because it has a large catchment area and limited storage capacity.” It said the coming monsoon, which is to set off during this week, too would likely affect the inflow into the dam, hence the state of Kerala reiterates its stand to increase the outflow to the maximum possible extent.

“Hence, the logical next step is the construction of a new dam to ensure water to Tamil Nadu and security to people living downstream and to decommission the existing dam,” the note said. On October 25, the apex court had said that the supervisory committee should take a “firm decision” on the maximum water level to be maintained in the dam. It had directed all the authorities concerned to interact immediately on an urgent basis on the issue saying it has something to do with lives. The counsel appearing for Kerala, while referring to torrential rains in the catchment area of the dam, had said the water level should not be raised beyond 139 feet, as was directed by the apex court in August 2018 when the state was hit by floods.

(With inputs from ANI and PTI)