The Supreme Court on Friday concurred with the decision of the disaster management sub-committee to maintain the water level at the Mullaperiyar dam at two to three feet below the permissible level of 142 feet till August 31.
Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha communicated the sub-committee’s decision, taken at a meeting on Thursday, to a bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices
A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud. He also told the court that the current level was 139.99 feet.
Taking note, the bench said: “At this juncture, we may direct that the committee which has met yesterday… shall see to it that… practicable water level be maintained at the dam, and both the states, namely the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, shall cooperate with the committee.”
In an affidavit filed before the court on Thursday, the Kerala government had said that the sudden release of water from the Mullaperiyar dam by the Tamil Nadu government was one of the reasons for the deluge in the state. While the reservoir is located in Kerala, it is operated by the Tamil Nadu government.
In its reply on Friday, the Tamil Nadu government said the charge was “wholly misplaced and contrary to ground realities”. It said it suspected that the petition was a “clever device to get out of the Mullaperiyar dam judgment”. “I see a sinister design in this,” said Senior Advocate Shekhar Naphade, who appeared for the Tamil Nadu government.
The court “assured” Naphade that it was only concerned with saving lives. “Needless to say, the present writ petition has nothing to do with any kind of dispute between the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, but it relates to saving of human lives in the obtaining situation of the disaster”.
The court was hearing a petition filed by a Kerala resident, Russel Joy, who mentioned the fears of people living downstream of the Mullaperiyar dam.
The Tamil Nadu government said the argument that the Mullaperiyar dam is vulnerable as it has a large catchment area “is totally untenable”.
The Kerala government had said that due to sudden release of water from Mullaperiyar, more water flowed into the Idukki reservoir, which is located downstream of Mullaperiyar, forcing it to release the water from Idukki dam.
Countering this, the Tamil Nadu affidavit, filed by the Principal Resident Commissioner, Tamil Nadu House, New Delhi, said: “Flood surplus from the Idukki dam is mainly due to the flow generated from its own independent catchment due to unprecedented heavy rainfall, while the contribution from Mullaperiyar dam is significantly less”.
The Tamil Nadu government also opposed the demand for setting up a committee — headed by the Chairman, Central Water Commission, and including Secretaries of both the states — to take a decision during floods or similar crisis situations, saying this was “wholly misconceived” and “would amount to interference with the operation and control of the dam, which is exclusively vested with” it.
The bench fixed the matter for hearing on September 6 and asked Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to file their responses in the meantime.
Earlier this month, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to his Tamil Nadu counterpart, E K Palaniswami, seeking lowering of the water level at the Mullaperiyar dam in the interest of its safety. The Tamil Nadu government opposed the plea, saying there was no threat to the safety of the dam.