The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin announced his plans of installing a statue of British engineer Col John Pennycuick on January 15. While not many know about him in the north, Col John Pennycuick is quite famous down south as many still name their children after him. But who was Col John Pennycuick?
The year was 1876, when the Madras Province was in the grip of a famine. About 10 million people died of starvation, a tragedy that went largely unnoticed in the rest of the world. This is when a British civil engineer became the hope of many suffering without water.
The man was John Pennycuick who constructed a dam in India that would take water from the longest river in Kerala to a district in nearby Tamil Nadu. But How?
The water from Mullai and Periyar rivers in Kerala that was wastefully draining into the Arabian sea was intercepted by constructing the 1,200-foot-long Periyar dam.
The colonel constructed the dam despite hindrances like having an unfriendly environment to support the dam and lack of funding. This is the reason why John Pennycuick is revered in Tamil Nadu. He was the chief builder of Mullaperiyar dam, which helped five water-starved districts of the state.
The century-old dam is located in the Idukki district of Kerala and is currently owned and run by the Tamil Nadu government. According to the Tamil Nadu government, the Mullaperiyar dam at present irrigates 2,19,840.81 acres of land.
Along with the announcement of installing his statue, MK Stalin also paid homage to the late British engineer on Jan 15, which also marked his 181st birthday. Stalin also mentioned that he has obtained permission from the local authorities in Camberley, known to be Pennycuick’s hometown, where the Colonel’s statue is said to be installed.