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Saturday, 4 February 2012

Panel on Mullaperiyar to submit report to court by the third week of February

Tamil Nadu wants it to maintain that dam will continue to serve its purpose

The Surpeme Court-appointed Empowered Committee indicated on Tuesday that it would submit a report on the Mullaperiyar dam to the court in February third week. At a meeting here, it discussed various technical reports on the dam's safety and strengthening measures.

The former Chief Justice of India, A.S. Anand, heads the committee. The other members are: Justice K.T. Thomas, retired Supreme Court Judge representing Kerala; Justice A.R. Lakshmanan, retired Supreme Court Judge representing Tamil Nadu; the former Secretary to the Ministry of Water Resources, C.D. Thatte; and D.K. Mehta, retired Chief Engineer, Central Water Commission.

The committee considered the reports of the studies and investigations conducted by various agencies it had constituted to go into the dam's safety. It also discussed the report of the two technical members who inspected the dam after Kerala raised apprehensions about its safety following mild tremors in the area. The committee discussed the applications filed by Kerala and Tamil Nadu and took their submissions on record.

It also discussed the modalities for finalising its report, as its term ends in February. It decided to meet in the middle of February for finalising the report.

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu, responding to Kerala's application for a new dam, wanted the committee to maintain that in view of the overwhelming evidence on record on the dam's safety, the existing dam, which was retrofitted and well-maintained, would continue to serve its intended purpose, and that there would be no need for a new one.

Tamil Nadu rejected Kerala's assertion that notwithstanding the unanimous technical opinion, “a public authority [the empowered panel] is endowed with responsibility to take a final call on the replacement of a dam after considering the human factors, viz., the extent and nature of damage to life and property if the dam fails and [the] ecological considerations.” Tamil Nadu said Kerala had taken the extreme stand in desperation.

As for Kerala's stand that a new dam would guarantee the interests of Tamil Nadu, the application said: “In such an event, raising the issues of sharing of the benefits arising from the new dam would tantamount to raising disputes with regard to utilisation of water, the equitable needs of … Tamil Nadu and the equitable sharing of benefits between the two States, which are all outside the scope of the present suit and the inquiry before the empowered committee.”

Tamil Nadu said: “The present dispute is not a “water dispute” as sought to be twisted by … Kerala, but one relating to the constitutional validity of the Kerala Amendment Act, 2006, fixing the water level [at 136 feet] on the alleged pretext of the safety of the … dam. The contentions raised by … Kerala are only an attempt to get over the existing regime and to work out a new regime, which would take away the existing and established rights of … Tamil Nadu to all the waters below the contour line of +155 feet of the existing dam.”

It said Kerala's argument for the principle of just and equitable share and sharing of the benefits of the new dam would show that the “proposal is not bona fide and is only an attempt to get over the existing established rights of … Tamil Nadu to the waters of the Mullaperiyar, which is wholly impermissible. The assertion of … Kerala on sharing the benefits … is totally uncalled-for.”

The committee will continue its deliberations on Wednesday.

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