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House panel moots new dam

Special Correspondent

Says dam is a threat to life and property Says dam is a threat to life and property

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Petition's Committee of the Assembly has recommended the construction of a new dam at Mullaperiyar in Idukki district in place of the 110-year-old lime and mortar dam, the safety of which is a subject of dispute between Kerala, where the dam is located, and Tamil Nadu, which receives the water that flows into the reservoir created by the dam.

The committee, headed by Monse Joseph, in a report tabled in the Assembly on Monday, said that even the British engineer Colonel Pennycuick, who supervised the construction of the dam way back in 1896, predicted a life of only 50 years for it.

The committee said that allowing the dam to stand beyond 110 years with the help of engineering patch-up works was by no means advisable, considering the magnitude of the calamity that it might cause in five districts in Kerala if anything untoward were to happen to the structure. The dam now stood as a threat to the life and property of nearly 35 lakh people living in the districts of Idukki, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam and Ernakulam, according to the committee.

Should withstand tremors

The committee said that a new dam should be designed factoring in the probability of tremors in the Mullaperiyar region. This region experienced tremors very recently and even two well-known geologists from Tamil Nadu, after conducting studies, confirmed that the region was prone to earthquakes.

It said it would be ideal for the two States to enter into a new agreement on the Mullaperiyar waters after the construction of the proposed new dam. The new agreement should protect the interests of both the States.

The waters that would rush downstream into the Kerala side if the old dam were to collapse would reach the Idukki reservoir formed by three mammoth dams at Idukki, Cheruthoni and Kulamavu.

The Petition's Committee said that these three dams would not be able to withstand the pressure of the flow from Mullaperiyar in such an event. The result would be a big tragedy.

The committee said that, for the present, the Kerala Government should commission a `dam break analysis' of the brick-and-mortar structure at Mullaperiyar and take precautionary measures to avert a possible tragedy. The Tamil Nadu engineers had created a sand embankment in front of the spillway of the dam and this embankment prevented the dam from overflowing even when the water level went beyond the height of 136 feet, which was now being considered safe. The committee suggested the removal of this embankment.

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