Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mullaperiyar campaign – Politician’s goldmine?

K.M.Mani and P.J.Joseph who are the ministers in the present UDF Government and who were the part of different ministries in the past, V.S.Achuthanandan who was the Chief Minister of Kerala for 5 years, various political leaders from different parties, were seen in the forefront in the Save Mullaperiyar Campaign in the form of fasting and other methods of protest. How serious are they in this matter? Are they really concerned about the Mullaperiyar dam safety or these are just gimmicks to create a vote bank? Let’s go to Mullaperiyar’s history and analyze the role of politicians in this issue.
Picture courtesy: CNN IBN

 While constructing Mullaperiyar dam, the engineers were not aware of how to design the dams against the effect of seismic forces. The Dam Safety Review Panel formed by the World Bank and the Government of Tamil Nadu, as part of the Dam Safety Assurance and Rehabilitation Project (DSARP) headed by Dr G N Tandon, in its report dated July 1991 had recommended that ‘two accelerographs could be installed in Periyar Dam - one in old and one in new backing concrete to monitor the real response of the composite dam to seismic events in the area, the monitoring of which is said to be being regularly done at Idukki.’
In 1995, the Geological Survey of India (GSI) had again conducted a geological mapping of the Mullaperiyar Dam area as part of the Dam Safety Assurance and Rehabilitation Project aided by the World Bank. In its report, GSI had advocated to ‘study the seismogenic capability of the lineaments by instrumentation and monitoring of the Mullaperiyar area.’’

What did the Governments in Kerala in 1991 and 1995, and the subsequent governments do with regards to this matter (Installing accelerograph in the Dam and conduct studies on seismogenic capabilities of the dam)
Even after a lapse of over 20 years, no action has been taken.

On 29 October 1886, a lease indenture for 999 years was made on Mullaperiyar Dam between the Maharaja of Travancore and the British Secretary of State for India for Periyar Irrigation Works. In 1947, after the Indian Independence the lease agreement expired. Instead of taking steps to decommission the Dam, the Kerala Governments from 1956 lead by CPI-M and Congress did nothing in this regard and slept over the issue, and surprisingly the agreement was renewed in 1970 when C Achutha Menon, the Chief Minister of the Communist Government, whose major ally was the Indian National Congress, was in power. By then Kerala had squandered its chance of taking control of the dam.

In February 2010, the Supreme Court decided to constitute a five-member empowered committee to study all the issues of Mullaiperiyar Dam. In March 2010, Tamil Nadu told the Supreme Court that it was not interested in adjudicating the dispute with Kerala before the special “empowered” committee. However, Supreme Court refused to accept Tamil Nadu's request to scrap the decision to form the empowered committee. Kerala was in advantage since then. However, recent developments shows that Kerala is squandering its chance of a new dam because of a campaign that has been blurting out stupid sensationalism and bruiting fear among ordinary people, especially from irresponsible ministers, political leaders and desperate media. This has only irked Tamilnadu further, the result- Kerala has been singled out. The campaign should have been formulated in a different way. Kerala should have concentrated on facilitating with relevant facts to the empowered committee constituted by the Supreme Court to study all issues pertaining to Mullaperiyar to make the case in its favour.  

Remember, implementing directions of the Supreme Court, the Central Government extended the terms of Empowered Committee for a further period of six months, namely till April 30, 2012.

We have a crowd of incompetent, irresponsible and imbecile politicians in Kerala, who are leading a campaign that is harping more on sensationalism than rationalism, and I fear, would lead to nowhere.

Inputs/references:  National Register for Large Dams" (in English). India: Central Water Commission. 2009. pp. 194–197. Retrieved 30 November 2011
Mullaperiyar Environmental Protection Forum v. Union of India (UOI) and Ors". Supreme Courth of India. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
 Call for studies on reservoir-induced seismicity in Idukki", the Hindu, November 21, 2011

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