The Supreme Court Thursday directed that the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam be maintained at 139.5 feet — as recommended by the dam supervisory committee — till November 11, when it will again hear a plea filed by some residents of Kerala raising safety concerns on account of torrential rains.
The court was hearing a plea by one Joe Joseph and office-bearers of the Kothamangalam block panchayat in Kerala expressing apprehensions about the height of the water column, given the heavy rain lashing the state.
During the hearing, Kerala also submitted a note to the court saying the 126-year-old dam is vulnerable and must be decommissioned to make way for a new one.
“We will go by supervisory committee and it is 139.5 (feet) and that can continue till next day (of hearing),” said a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar, giving Kerala time to submit the rule curve, which indicates the level of water to be maintained on different dates, as well as its objections to the committee’s report.
Appearing for Kerala, Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta contended that it is not safe to have the water level at the height proposed by Tamil Nadu (142 feet, as allowed by the Supreme Court in its past judgments). He urged that the water level be maintained at 139 feet till the next date of hearing.
Gupta said that though the south-east monsoon has withdrawn, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have started to receive rain from the north-east monsoon, which will continue till the end of November. He said if the level of the water column is 142 feet already, the reservoir will not be able to hold any more water and the gates will have to be opened. “It will flow downstream… downstream is Kerala and upstream is Tamil Nadu,” he said.
Appearing for Tamil Nadu, Senior Advocate Shekhar Naphade said the state would be able to maintain a level of 139.5 feet only till November 10. He said Kerala attempts to bring the water level below 142 feet every year through applications.
The court said that it will not enter into technical issues pertaining to the supervisory committee and will go by its advice of 139.50 feet till November 11, which both parties agreed to. The court clarified that it will be open to the committee reviewing its decision.