Mullaiperiyar, A man made marvel or Disaster?

Kerala often believed to be “god’s abode”, from time immemorial, and is rightly called “God’s own country”. Even my best attempts at writing would fail to describe the beauty of this evergreen strip of land, which is located on the Malabar Coast of south-west India.

It’s a fact that the land, famous for its scenic natural beauty is also known for its manmade marvels. One such man made marvel is the Mullaiperiyar dam constructed on river Periyar in Idukki district of Kerala.

The part of land on which this Dam was constructed, was leased out by the erstwhile king of Travancore to British presidency of Madras   in 1887 for a period of 999 years. After independence the pact became void and after much consultations and pressure the lease was renewed and the pact honoured. The Dam which has bared the tests of time for more than 125 years still stands

The water from the dam is being diverted eastward to join the Vaigai River which is dammed to provide a source for irrigating large tracts of land in Madurai, which is a part of neighbouring Tamil-Nadu. The state is paying a nominal amount yearly to govt of Kerala in honour of the agreement.

The Dam which was constructed to bring prosperity to both the states has become a
point of conflict.

The government of Kerala wants to build a new dam in its place as it feels the dam has been kept operational, way beyond its expected life span of 50 years.

Kerala’s points of concern are:

1. The age of the dam, this is way beyond its expected life span.

2. The construction materials, used in building the dam dates back to 19th century,
which has resulted in seepage and leaks.

3.  The dam is located in seismically active zone; frequent earthquakes have a
major cause of worry. IIT Roorkee and IISC have reported that the dam cannot
withstand earthquakes above 6 point on the Richter scale.

4.  Inadequate safety maintenance and safety monitoring of the dam.

The government of Kerala feels that Dam burst may result in loss of life and property of millions of people on both its side and the Economy will cripple and severe drought might occur in southern parts of Tamil Nadu.

The government of Kerala according to leading dailies says that the supply of water to Tamil Nadu will not be restricted.

According to government of Tamil Nadu, redirecting the Periyar River might result in severe shortage of water in southern parts of Tamil Nadu, which would result in loss of crops and the subsequently a  severe drought may occur. The State also wants the Dam level to be raised to 142 ft in accordance to the Supreme Court judgment in 2006, which the government of Kerala has bluntly refused stating safety concerns.

Given the delicacy of the matter, it is imperative that, both the sides should show some restraint while taking up this issue. It is not a regional problem anymore,  it is of national importance or may be international importance, since the economy and livelihood of millions is at stake.

Vandalism and violence hasn’t taken us anywhere in the past and it won’t do any good in the present scenario too. I hope politicians and the people from both the states refrain from adopting such measures because, it is not going to lead us anywhere.

The Supreme Court has appointed an expert committee to look after the matter, and according to the findings of the committee it would give proper judgment. Whatever may be the outcome, both the sides should accept it gladly; after all it is our country and our people, the life and property on both the sides is equally precious. No one is superior to the law, we live in a democratic country; let us have faith in our judicial process.

The relationship between Man and Nature has always been strained. It is time for man to understand and, to live in harmony with nature. After all “We Are One” and Peace is what each and every one of us desire from the bottom of our heart.

May our lands (both) flourish always..


Sethuraman K.