Mullapperiyar dam has again grabbed the media headlines after an alarming situation formed due to mild tremors shook Idukki district, Kerala recently. Though the epi-centre of quake was some far away from the dam site, the tremor had slightly affected the vicinity of dam as well. Still, the recurrence of tremor causes concerns over the dam. Quakes measuring 2.02 and 3.04 had shaken the area including the dam site. Some of the new studies state that the dam is not capable to withstand a quake measuring 6 in Richter scale. Officials in-charge found two minor cracks in the bottom of the wall, said to have been caused by the quake.
Mullapperiyar dam was built in 1895 and now is being operated by Tamil Nadu according to a lease agreement made between Maharaja of Travancore and Secretary of states for India on 29 October 1886. The lease agreement was signed by Dewan of Travancore V Ram Iyengar and State Secretary of Madras State (under British rule) J C Hannington and it was an agreement for 999 years. The unfair and unprecedented lease was as part of British colonial exploitation of natural resources those days. British engineer John Pennycuick, the chief engineer of the dam building project then, offered an expiry period of 50 years for the dam and now it has been 116 years since it's commissioning.
People living in downstream villages are under 'sword of Damocles'. Their nights are sleepless. Hearing any rumbles make them panic. Their children are sleeping with nightmares. In case of Mullaperiyar dam collapses, a series of collapses will be followed. The heavy rush of water will hit Idukki, Cheruthoni and Kulamavu dams and those wouldn't be able to with stand the monsterous force of water. The consequences will be disasterous. Almost 4 districts of Kerala will be wiped off. 35 lakhs of people will die. Houses, premises, farms, and bio-diversity of Periyar reserve will be inundated.
Meanwhile in Tamil Nadu, the issue is being portrayed in a different perspective. The districts of Theni, Madurai, Dindugal, Sivaganga, and Ramanathapuram of the state are completely depending Mullaperiyar for their irrigation purposes. Though the situation in Kerala is disasterous, the Tamil people misconceived that if the dam is decommissioned, the supply of water to their districts will be stopped. Their farming lands are going to transform to barren lands. The Tamil politicians, instead of convincing their people and making a bilateral solution for the menace, evoke the Tamil sensitivity in order to avoid the reconstruction of the dam. They obviously play ugly political game on the issue.
Tamil Nadu government has even gone to the extent that it has stopped screening of a hollywood movie 'Dam 999' in Tamil Nadu theatres which says nothing about Mullaperiyar dam. Instead, the film portrays different cultures of India including the tradition of ayurvedha, Indian Music, astrology, Indian culture and family bonds that exist in the people. Only thing regarding dam collapse depicting in the movie is picturing of Banqiao dam catastrophe which had claimed the lives of millions of peoples of China in 1975. The number 999 doesn't represent the lease agreement period of Mullaperiyar dam as it was misunderstood. This number is september 9, 2009, on the date the dam collapsed as portrayed in the movie.
As the chief minister of Kerala, Ummen Chandy, stated very clearly, we are not going to interrupt the water supply to Tamil Nadu even in case of a new dam is built. We are contending for the lives of millions of our people. We need the life when you need the water. We are willing to provide the water abundantly for ever. Tamil brothers, only you have to do is to permit us for building a new dam while keeping the water level of the reservoir reduced in order to ease the threat of collapse until the reconstruction of dam is over. We beg for our lives. Please don't act reluctantly.
Picture : from Google.