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Mulla Periyar Dam Issue
A lease indenture for 999 years was made on 29-10-1886 between Maharaja of Travancore and Secretary of State for India for Periyar irrigation works. By another agreement in 1970, Tamil Nadu was permitted to generate power also. The Mullaperiyar Dam was constructed during 1887-1895. Its full reservoir level is 152 ft and it provides water through a tunnel to Vaigai basin in Tamil Nadu for irrigation benefits in 68558 ha area.
In 1979, reports appeared in Kerala Press about damage to Periyar Dam. On 25th November, 1979 Chairman, CWC held meeting with the officers of Irrigation and Electricity, Deptt. Of Kerala and PWD of Tamil Nadu and some emergency medium term measures and long-term measures for strengthening of Mullaperiyar Dam were decided. A second meeting under the Chairmanship of Chairman, CWC was held on 29th April 1980 and it was opined that after the completion of emergency and medium term measures, the water level in the reservoir can be raised up to 145 ft.
The matter became sub judice with several petitions. On the directions of the Supreme Court in its order dated 28.4.2000, Minister (WR) convened the Inter-State meeting on 19.5.2000 and as decided in the meeting, an Expert Committee under Member (D&R), CWC with representatives from both States was constituted in June 2000 to study the safety of the dam. The Committee in its report of March, 2001 opined that with the strengthening measures implemented, the water level can be raised from 136 ft. To 142 ft. without endangering safety of the dam. Further raising of water level to 152 ft. would be considered after balance strengthening measures are implemented.
The Supreme Court in its orders on 27.2.2006, permitted the Government of Tamil Nadu to raise the water level of Mullaperiyar dam from 136 ft. To 142 ft. and to carry out the remaining strengthening measures. After that the Government of Kerala passed the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act 2006 on 18th March 2006 which prohibited the raising of water level beyond 136 ft. in the Mullaperiyar Dam and placed it in the Schedule of ‘Endangered Dams’. Government of Tamil Nadu filed a suit in the Supreme Court on 31.3.2006 praying for declaration of above Act as unconstitutional in its application to and effect on Mullaperiyar Dam and restraining the State of Kerala from obstructing Tamil Nadu to increase the water level to 142 feet.
The Union Minister (WR) convened an inter-State meeting of the Chief Ministers of States of Tamil Nadu and Kerala on Mullaperiyar dam issue on 29.11.2006 at New Delhi. Both States reiterated their respective stand in the meeting and no consensus could be reached regarding a solution acceptable to both States.
Subsequently, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu met Prime Minister on 18.12.2007 and Prime Minister suggested him to have a meeting with Chief Minister of Kerala on Mullaperiyar issue. Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu met Chief Minister of Kerala on 19.12.2007 in presence of Union Minister of Water Resources. Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu vide letter dated 20.12.2007 mentioned that in the above meeting, he had suggested to oversee the seepage measurement of the dam by engineers not belonging to either of the two States through CWC and Chief Minister of Kerala agreed to consider this. However a consensus of both the states on such monitoring mechanism could not be achieved
In the meanwhile, Govt. of Kerala carried out hydrological review studies through a professor of IIT, Delhi and concluded in the report that the Mullaperiyar dam is hydrologically unsafe for passing the estimated Probable Maximum Flood. CWC examined this report and observed that the report does not appear to be well founded.
Secretary (WR) convened an interstate meeting on the Mullaperiyar Dam on 31.7.2009. In the meeting, the representative of Kerala informed that the Kerala Govt. visualizes construction of a new dam as the only feasible solution. They could also consider the construction of a new dam at their own cost. Later, Govt. of Tamil Nadu vide letter dated 14.9.2009 mentioned that there is no need for construction of a new dam by the Kerala Government, as the existing dam after it is strengthened, would function like a new dam.
The Mullaperiyar case being heard by a five member bench of Hon`ble Supreme Court, who vide order 18.2.2010 directed constitution of an Empowered Committee. The Hon’ble Court observed : “That apart from the legal and constitutional issues, inter alia the real grievance that concerns the state is Tamil Nadu is of not being able to increase the reservoir level of Mullaperiyar Dam to 142 feet. The concern of the State of Kerala, on the other hand, appears to be relating to the safety of the Dam.”
As per the said order, the terms of reference of the Empowered Committee were to :
Hear parties to the suit on all issues that will be raised before them, without being limited to the issues that have been raised before the Hon’ble Supreme Court, and furnish a report, as far as possible, within six months from their constitution.
The Committee shall frame its own procedure and issue appropriate directions as to the hearings as well as venue of its sittings.
The Committee is free to receive such further evidence as it considers appropriate.
Legal and constitutional issues including the validity of the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2006 would be considered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.
Accordingly, the Ministry of Water Resources, vide Gazette Notification issued on 30.4.2010 constituted the Empowered Committee as under :
Justice (Dr.) A.S. Anand
Justice Shri K.T. Thomas
Dr. C.D. Thatte
Shri D.K. Mehta
Shri Sat Pal
The Committee held twenty meetings and also visited the site in December, 2010. In its report submitted on 23.4.2012, the Committee concluded that dam is hydrologically safe and that the proposal of State of Kerala to build a new dam requires reconsideration by State of Kerala.
The Empowered Committee in its report suggested two alternatives:
First alternative is that Kerala could construct a new Dam and the existing dam may not be dismantled, demolished or decommissioned till the new dam construction is completed and it becomes operational.
The second alternative is to repair, strengthen/ restore the existing dam.
A Constitution Bench, consisting of 5 Judges of Hon’ble Supreme Court, has heard the Mullaperiyar Dam Case, in July/August, 2013, involving the States of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Arguments in the case were completed on 21.8.2013. The Constitution Bench consisting of 5 judges of Hon’ble Supreme Court has delivered its judgement on 07.05.2014. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has declared the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act,2006 unconstitutional and directed Union Government to set up a three member Supervisory Committee about the safety of the Mullaperiyar Dam on restoration of the FRL to 142 ft. After consulting Ministry of Law and Justice, a Cabinet Note on setting up the Supervisory Committee on Mullaperiyar Dam, was forwarded to Cabinet Secretariat on 13.06.2014. The Cabinet has accorded its approval on 18.06.2014 for setting up of a three member Supervisory Committee on Mullaperiyar Dam. In pursuance to the approval of the Cabinet, an OM constituting a three member supervisory committee on Mullaperiyar Dam was issued on 01.07.2014. The Supervisory Committee has its office at Kumily, Kerala. Six meetings of the Supervisory Committee on Mullaperiyar Dam have already been held on 08.07.2014, 17.07.2014, 19.8.2014, 15.9.2014, 3.11.2014 and 24.11.2014 in Kerala.
The State Government of Kerala filed Review Petition (C) No. 1705 of 2014 in Original Suit No. 3 of 2006, i.e. against the Hon’ble Supreme Court Order dated 7.5.2014 which has been dismissed by the Apex Court on 2nd December, 2014.
Govt. of Tamil Nadu has filed IA No. 25/2014 in Supreme Court pleading the Apex Court for Deployment of CISF to guard Mullaperiyar Dam. The same came up for hearing on 20.02.2015 and Apex Court has directed UOI to file counter reply.