"Mullaperiyar" is a word that everyone might have heard in last two weeks. For those outside Kerala and TamilNadu, it might be nothing more than a silly fight,just a small colomn in newspaper to waste a part of paper. But for us- Tamilians and Malayalees , it is something beyond that.
On 29th October 1886, an agreement for 999 years was made between Maharaja of Travancore, Vishakham Thirunal and State Secretary of Madras State (under British rule). It was the agreement, to build a dam, was one that changed the life of thousands of people in Tamil Nadu.Thus a dam was build in the territory of Kerala and it came under the control of British rule. This control later went to Tamil Nadu Government. But I am not going into the history of Dam as it will be too boring.
The Dam constructed by John Pennycuick in 1895, still gives water to more than four districts in Tamil Nadu- Theni, Madurai,Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram.The life of people in this region depends a lot on water from Mullaperiyar.There was no doubt that the agreement helped Tamil Nadu a lot. Mullaperiyar Dam was really a bliss for them. Today, is that dam and the agreement turning against them? Yes, I really mean it is turning against them. Let us see how it happens.
When the dam was constructed in 1895, even Pennycuick might not have dreamed like the dam standing for more than a century.The average age of Gravity Dams are 50-80 years. But yes, there are many dams that are still fine and are in good condition. It is the point that Tamil Nadu is raising now.But here we fail to notice a point. All the gravity dams that have passed the test of time, are not more than 20 meters high. But Mullapperiyar is 53 metres high. And one can easily imagine what might be the 'technology' used in those days.
IIT Delhi has already studied the construction of dam and have given the report that dam is weak. IIT Roorkie have also studied dam and have reported that dam cannot withstand an earthquake of 6.5 on ritcher scale.( click here to see the news).
Situations are becoming more serious as the earthquakes are happening in Idukki. Kerala reported like 26 earthquakes were reported at Idukki, near Mullaperiyar Dam in last few months.
Tamil Nadu, in reply told that only five earthquakes have happened. Whatever the count be, luckily none of them have reached 6.5 . One earthquake of 6.5 in ritcher scale is enough to 'you-know-what-it-will-be'
Now let us check the next part of the controversy.
Kerala : If the Mullaperiyar Dam breaks, it will flow to Idukki and break Idukki Dams. The Idukki Hydro Electric Project is based on three dams – Idukki, Cheruthoni and Kulamavu. No scientific agency has confirmed the Dam trio can withstand the thrust of the water from Mullapperiyar plus the mud, rocks and ruins. As a result of these dams’ possible collapse entire Central Kerala, including Kochi will be washed away.
Tamil Nadu : Even if dam breaks, Idukki Dam have the strength to withstand the pressure of extra water coming from mullaperiyar. So it will not be a problem.
One point is common in both statements- if the dam breaks, water will reach Idukki. . A stretch of 36 km -Mullaperiyar to Idukki. It is estimated that 450 families are residing on the banks of this stretch. Almost 70000 people will be affected by the flood in this region. Now, what about the life of people there? Aren't they humans? People in Vallakkadavu, Vandiperiyar, Keerikkara, Mlamala, Chappath, Upputhura, AyyappanKovil, Erattayar etc will be drowned. And a thing to be noted is 30-40% of the people there are Tamilians who are working in Tea/coffee estates. Water coming from dam will not check whether the person is Malayalee or Tamilian before killing. Both Government should think this before taking a decision. (In case if Idukki Dam also fails, I have no more points to say. I will not be alive to post any more blogs. See you all in heaven!)
Now let us assume that Dam is strong. But for how long it can stand? It is like we are saying that a 90 year old man is strong now and he can live another 50 more years. On one morning in 2015 or 2016 , if Tamil Nadu finds dam is not in a good situation we can't do anything. It may take another four -five years to construct a new dam. How can we prevent the disaster till then? There is no point in blaming each other at that moment. Even if the dam is strong, what is wrong in constructing a new dam if that is the only solution to bring peace in mind of people. Today, whole Kerala is waiting for a 'YES' from Tamil Nadu is start the construction of Dam. Kerala will construct it using the state’s money and will give water from new Dam to Tamil Nadu. Of course there are many tensions for Tamil Nadu, whether they get water and all.Tamil Nadu farmers have shown their doubt. But Kerala Government have made it clear that after constructing new dam, Kerala will give 100% water to Tamil Nadu. Kerala chief Minister has assured it already. We need to take a decision on this soon.
If new dam is not constructed, and if old dam fails, there will not be a new dam constructed again. It will result in a big regional fight. Tamil Nadu will not give vegetables to Kerala while people in five districts of Tamil Nadu will also be the victims of Dam failure. Definitely not by flood, the other way. While the western side of the border face calamities due to flood and its aftermaths the eastern valley of TN will be slowly drying up killing its vegetation, cultivation, animals and people. Any shortage of water supply will affect power generation from Lower Camp powerhouse and then the irrigation using this water. The people in TN are made to believe by that constructing a new dam in Mullapperiyar won’t supply them the water, but this will be what definitely happen on failure of the existing leaky water wall. TN oppose reducing the water level below 120 feet pointing that supply will be down; now what will happen if there is no reservoir at all? People in those districts will have to turn their time machine a 100 years back and will have to restart their life. Wonder if there is at least a politician, aam admi, citizen, student, scholar, teacher, labourer, govt. servant, farmer or anybody with an open eye to accept the fact as it is and understand the situation with common sense on a potential disaster? I will be just one of the victims. There are thousands of children in the aforesaid villages in Idukki who are not ready to go to school; there are thousands of mothers spending sleepless nights at their home, anticipating the roar of a rushing water wall.Let me stop here at this point, whatever the arguments be, both the states are going to suffer.
The story of Victoria Dam will be the best example to explain it. Victoria Dam was constructed in 1891 four years before Mullaperiyar dam, constructed with the same technology. But when they found that it is weak, they have demolished it(in 1990) and constructed a new one . It is the time to stop the ego.We have to stop talking and begin to act now. Else, it might end up in something similar to what happened in China in 1931. A flood in Yellow river, caused by the breaking of ice dams formed in Mangolia had killed almost 4 million people . Let us believe that Mullaperiyar dam is strong and it will not fail, but still, prevention is always better than cure.
Mathrubhumi news paper
P.S : Thanks to Rubesh for sparking this idea and Rajmon for helping me.