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Mullaperiyar dam issue

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Examine why the Mullaperiyar dam issue has become bone of contention between Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Examine if the union government can help resolve this issue - INSIGHTS

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            This article sheds light on the history of the Mullaperiyar dam and the background for the current deadlock between the two states over the dam. The current deadlock between the two states over the dam is essentially not a dispute for water, but has its roots in the colonial times, and has to do with the need to come to terms with the agreements and decisions made in those times with changing economic, political and environmental contexts and concerns about the safety of the dam in Kerala versus the irrigation needs of the farmers in the state of Tamil Nadu.

            Examine what systemic measures need to be taken to address these problems
          • siddharthan p v

            Please Review

            • siddharthan p v

              Self Review - I didn’t answer to the second part of the question.

    • Shiuli

      The Mullaperiyar dam is operated by TN as per an agreement between erstwhile princely State Travancore and Madras State.

      The main issues of contention are -

      1. Concerns of Kerala -
      (i) The dam poses a threat to the Idduki dam which is the largest source of hydroelectric power in the country
      (ii) Threat to the Periyar National Park and people located around the dam’s reservoir 2. Concerns of TN -
      (i) The dam is safe as repair work was carried out in 1979
      (ii) Lowering of water levels in the dam is causing huge agricultural loses in TN and shortage of drinking water

      The SC in 2014 had struck down Kerala’s Dam Law of 2006 by arguing that it is an Inter-State Water Dispute and Kerala Government cannot alone take measures on the issue.

      Tamil Nadu, in recent years, has made demands that the storage capacity of the dam be increased from 136 feet (41.5 m) to 142 feet (43 m) to meet the rising demand of water needed for irrigation. However, Kerala has been arguing since 1970 that the existing structure has outlived its safety and longevity and that there is a need to construct a new structure and that it is unsafe to maintain water at 46.3 metres, which is at the full capacity and that it should be restricted to 41.45 metres [4]. Differences on the optimum water levels that the dam can withstand and the concerns of the safety of the dam have thus led to disputes between the two states. The issue has also been complicated by a number of studies that have shown contradictory results.

      The Union government isn’t able to setup an Inter-State Water Dispute Tribunal under Art 262 as the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956 requires the State governments to approach it for the setting up of a tribunal.

      In 1998, all Mullaperiyar-related cases were transferred to the Supreme Court. The Supreme court declared in February 2006 that the dispute was not a ‘water dispute’ and that the reservoir level could be raised to 43.28 metres and directed Tamil Nadu to carry out the strengthening measures suggested by CWC, and prevented Kerala from causing any obstruction[4]. However, in March 2006, Kerala’s Legislative Assembly passed the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation Amendment Act, 2006. The amendment empowered Kerala’s Dam Safety Authority (KDSA), a body mandated in 2003 by the original Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation Act to evaluate safety of all dams in the state, which has the power to advise the government to suspend the functioning or to decommission a dam if public safety demanded [4].

      However, there are certain measures available for the Union -

      1. Constructing water desalinization plants in coastal regions to provide for the drinking water of TN

      2. Rehabilitation of the people living near the reservoir 3. Setting up an expert Committee to look into the safety issues and inform the SC

      4. Amend the ISWD Act to empower the Parliament to take suo-moto cognizance of such disputes

      • Ravi Singh


        In February 2010, following the Court's directions, the Union government thus constituted an empowered committee, headed by former Chief Justice of India A.S. Anand, to hear the parties on all issues that would be raised before them and furnish a report to the Court. The committee's tenure has been extended up to February 2012 [13]. According to recent reports, Anand Committte is set to examine expert's reports on dam safety amidst reports of the increasing threat to the dam structure due to increasing water levels because of incessant rains [14] and predictions that an earthquake can cause damage to the dam and threaten the lives of 3.5 million people, the issue has been recognised as a national problem needing urgent attention. According to recent reports, the centre has invited Tamil Nadu and Kerala for talks on the dam. This will be the first official meeting between the two states on the issue in the last six years [15].

        i learnt a lot.

      • Georgi Mathan Ninan

        I envy your answer writing skills!

        Another thing is that the Govt of Kerala and TN have jointly setup an expert dam safety review team. Do you think another team appointed be the Central govt could be of any use?

        • Shiuli

          Well the reference provided by Insights say that they are still in conflict.

        . I think joint resolutions will not work.
        This dam was earlier known as the Periyar dam and the present name Mullaperiyar is derived from a blending together of the names of two areas, Mullayar and Periyar, at the confluence of which the dam is located [2].The history of the construction of the dam goes back to the colonial times when a need was identified to divert the waters of the Periyar river eastward to flow towards the Bay of Bengal and provide water to the water scarce Madurai region of Madras Presidency, as the water supply available from the Vaigai River was found to be inadequate to meet the needs of the region [3]. The dam’s purpose was also to divert the waters of the west-flowing Periyar River eastwards, since it caused widespread floods in the Travancore region [4].

        . They have not worked for Krishna, Narmada, Godavari etc.. Tribunals had to be setup for all of them.. Now that cannot be done until the STates ask.. meanwhile a Committee for scientific analysis can be setup.. Not only will the Centre have more resources.
        In March 2010, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi said that Tamil Nadu would never give up its rights over the Mullaperiyar dam since that would create problems for farmers in that area. However, people in Kerala argue that the 1886 deed should not be continued since it was forced upon the Travancore ruler [4]. People in Tamil Nadu argue that Kerala is eyeing extra water from the Mullaperiyar reservoir to generate electricity. Power generation at the Idukki reservoir, downstream of the Mullaperiyar dam will come to a halt if the reservoir level is increased from 41.45 metres to 46.3 metres. The Kerala government, however, maintains that the Idukki project was designed after discounting the 46.3 metres water storage in the Mullaperiyar dam [4].

        . It can ask the two States to resolve their disputes quickly if their is any serious threat..

    • chanakya

      Super…….good skills…..

    • Fazil Mohd

      Idukki dam is not the largest hydroelectric power project in the country dude.

      According to the 'History of the Periyar Project', a publication compiled by the Public Works Department's Executive Engineer A.T. Mackenzie (published first in 1898 and subsequently in 1963), the idea of diverting the Periyar into Madurai had existed since 1850, when the work on the dam had been started, but was given up later due to fever among workers and demand for excessive wages [1].

      and there is also the threat to the people living further downstream due to the periyar river flooding it’s banks.
      one more concern for kerala is the tourism investments it has made in periyar lake (catchment area of the dam basically) which would be lost if the height is increased as per tamilnadu’s demand good answer otherwise 🙂

      • Georgi Mathan Ninan

        I beg to differ about the threat factor.

        Parthy, is talking about unity and in the background threatening keralites. What a true INDIAN.

        Threat factor is real when it comes to the safety of the dam. Alternative evacuation points have been setup along the lines. Very often NDRF inspects the drills. But the Kerala govt making a big hue and cry about the safety and the construction of another dam may have an hidden agenda as well.
        As the political debate for and against the safety and usefulness of the dam continues within the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, people in Idukki area and environmental and water activists have expressed their concerns about the safety of the dam and argue that this is an issue of nation wide importance [17]. Experts warn that more than 500 dams in India are too old and have been constructed during the British times [17] and some 115 of them, are more than a century old and capable of unleashing potential devastation if breached. All of these dams are still very much in use with the the oldest being the Thonnur Tank (24.38 metres high), located in Karnataka and dating back to 1000 AD [19].

        • Fazil Mohd

          we aren’t here to debate on weather kerala or tamilnadu is right about Mullaiperiyar but to look objectively and separately on each of their concerns for making the demands they make.

      • Shiuli

        Oh yes.. It should have been been Kerala.

        Water activists such as Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (SANDRP) are highly critical of the stance taken by Central Water Commission (CWC) and the Water Resource Ministry and argue that safety of the people should be given top priority and that the state of Kerala should be given every right to take the decision about the decommissioning of the dam [18] and that the Mullaperiyar dam needs to be decommissioned urgently to protect people in the downstream area of Idukki [20].

        . Thank you for pointing it out.. The rest of the points are good too.. Made the necessary change..

    • gugha priya

      HI Shiuli. Excellent points for the 2nd part of the question… All the best:)

      • Shiuli

        Thank you Priya.. Same to you.. 🙂

    • BST

      Well written… One question I hope u don’t mind to answer where did u get all the info from? Especially the second half of the question?

      • Shiuli

        Oh we had a question on ISWD yesterday.

        In 1979, there was an earthquake in the dam area that caused panic among people. On Kerala Govt’s request, Tamil Nadu agreed to reduce the water level to 136 feet from 142 feet, till completion of strengthening of the dam with reinforcement of concrete cover, etc.

        . I had to go through the Sarkaria Commission report to ansswer it.. About the issue of Mullaperiyar dam.. wiki.. Hope this helps..

    • Nares kurapati

      well written. you could add
      1. issue related to the security of the dam
      2. chennai floods current issue

      Please review mine.

    • mohini

      Nice written…specially measures

    • Ash

      Hi Shiuli 🙂

      Could you share the reference for ‘The Union government isn’t able to setup an Inter-State Water Dispute Tribunal under Art 262 as the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956 requires the State governments to approach it for the setting up of a tribunal.

      The dispute between the two States of Travancore and Madras arose in about 40 years following the dam construction over whether Madras was entitled to use the Periyar water for hydropower generation. Initially, Tamil Nadu suffered a setback, but the issue was resolved 30 years later. On May 29, 1970, Tamil Nadu and Kerala signed an agreement, under which Tamil Nadu was allowed to generate electricity from the project and it surrendered fishing rights in the leasehold land in favour of Kerala [1]. Tamil Nadu has been using dam water and land and paying the Kerala government a tax of Rs 2.5 lakhs for the land and electricity generated from the dam. However, the validity of the agreement continues to be disputed by both the states [4].

      What I’m seeing in Laxmikanth is : River boards need states to go to the Union Govt .. However cases are referred to the Tribunals directly by the Central Govt.

      I feel your last 3 points are not really reqd… not asked in the ques.
      Central government studies have however suggested that the water level in the dam can be raised followed by efforts at strengthening the dam. For example, the Central Water Commission (CWC), a premier government agency dealing with dam safety, in 1979 suggested a reduction of water level to 41.45 metres as an emergency measure along with other measures to strengthen the dam. Tamil Nadu agreed to this limit. However, another committee headed by the then CWC chairperson was appointed in 2001 to look into the matter. It stated that the reservoir level be raised to 43.28 metres, after the strengthening measures were implemented. This was to be on an interim basis, and later reservoir levels could go up to the original level of 46.3 metres [3].

      . however your 4th point can be used as the conclusion.. Keep Writing! 🙂

    • JAM

      good answer, keep writing.

    • Puja

      very well answered shiuli.

    • azad

      Kerala government is asking to build a new dam in place of the existing one.
      Tamilnadu government concern is that if it will build a new dam it might loose the existing lease agreement with the Kerala government which authorized the Tamil nadu government to manage the mullaperiyar dam for 999years….

      A number of developments following independence have fuelled this ongoing debate between the Kerala and Tamil Nadu government on the dam reservoir level. There was a drastic increase in population on the downstream of the Idukki river in Kerala followed by microclimatic changes and a decline in the rainfall, which led to decline in the water levels in the Idukki dam. Power generation fell and the diversion to the Mullaperiyar dam was blamed for this decline. Kerala thus argued for reduction in water levels in the dam. The then chief minister of Tamil Nadu agreed to this and when the water level in the dam was brought down in 1980, around 8,000 hectares of Tamil Nadu's rain shadow districts suffered [3].

      ( even though the dam is situated in Kerala it is managed by Tamil nadu)

  • Ravi Singh

    The Mullaperiyar dam supplies water for irrigation and sustenance to both tamil nadu and kerala. Due to increasing requirements,
    especially a spike in droughts, faced by farmers in tamil nadu, the two states have laid claims to the dam’s water.

    Farmers in Tamil Nadu maintain that water rights have already been established during the past century and cannot be reverted. The Kerala government, however, argues that the gross area irrigated by the Mullaperiyar reservoir actually increased from 24,280 ha in 1896 to 69,200 ha in 1970-71 (when the water level was 46.3 metres) to 92,670 ha in 1994-95 (when water level was reduced to 41.45 metres). But Tamil Nadu claims that this is due to the modernisation of Periyar-Vaigai project, which reduced seepage losses by 6.7 thousand million cubic feet [4].

    Tamil nadu’s irrigation inadequacy has forced them to ask for more water as well as for raising the dam’s water level to 142 feet.

    Whereas kerala stands by the fact that raising the water level on the aging and structurally prone dam would endanger civilians and leave nought for either party.

    The debate in its present form raises a number of dilemmas that complicate the matter even further. For example, raising the level of water in the dam can pose a serious danger to the lives of the people living downstream. At the same time, experts believe that the construction of a new dam besides creating a heavy financial burden, would pose as a threat to the Periyar Tiger Reserve causing tremendous environmental damage and would be subject to the same problem of seismicity. At the same time, the irrigation needs of the farmers in Tamil Nadu are equally important and relevant.

    The kerala government’s actions include denying tamil nadu officials from inspecting the site to enacting laws for not raising the water level beyond 136 feet (Dam safety act 2006), the latter being rejected as unconstitutional by the supreme court.

    However, Tamil Nadu once again rejected the idea of constructing the new dam over the Periyar River even though the proposal had been cleared for approval by the Centre in 1979. In February 2010, the Chief Minister of Kerala applauded the Supreme Court ruling demanding a review of the safety aspect of the Mullaperiyar. The apex court appointed a senior committee to study the safety of the dam, discuss increasing its water level above 136 feet and evaluate Kerala’s demand for a new dam. The Supreme Court appointed former chief justice of India A.S. Anand as the chairperson of a techno-legal panel formed to examine the strength and capacity of the more than a century old Mullaperiyar dam in Kerala [4].

    Tamil nadu’s over reliance on other state’s resources has to be reduced in the immediate future. Kerela’s initiative to construct a new dam to ensure safety and water equity is also a positive step.

    The central government must work with both state’s to diffuse tensions and start work to provide reasonable distribution but also enable tamil nadu to develop it’s resources and a healthy future relationship with kerala.

    A study on the impact of raising of water level in the Mullaperiyar reservoir of the Periyar Tiger Reserve was carried out in 2001. The team included scientists from the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI), the Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (TBGRI), Centre for Water Resource Development and Management (CWRDM) and the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON). The report had suggested that all kind of wild fauna including wild boar, gaur, sambar, otters, elephants and birds that nest in the reservoir will be adversely affected if the dam height is raised. Kerala had also been arguing against the raising of the dam height in view of this study and the impact that this could have on the environment [3].

    beginner please critique

  • Batman

    The issue of Mullaperiyar dam(located in Idukki district of Kerala) has roots in colonial times whereby the westward flowing Periyar river (in Kerala) was diverted and made to flow in present state of Tamil Nadu.

    For the dam, water was diverted from the reservoir by way of a tunnel across the watershed and the Western Ghats to the rain shadow region of the Theni Sivaganga District and Ramanathapuram districts of Tamil Nadu. During the rule of the British in India, a 999-year lease was made, between the Maharajah of Travancore and the Secretary of State for Madras, which provided the British the rights over “all the waters” of the Mullaperiyar and its catchments, for an annual rent of Rs. 40,000. About 60,000 hectares in Theni, Madurai, Sivaganga, Ramanathapuram, and Dindigul districts in present day Tamil Nadu were intended as beneficiaries of irrigation waters from Mullaperiyar [4].

    This was done because Periyar river had been causing floods in Kerala and the east flowing Vagai river of Tamil Nadu was inadequate to fulfill the water demands of the state.

    In the present scenario, the two states have their own reasons that have become the bone of contention.

    The issue that has been making headlines in the last few days has been that of the continuing debate between the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu over the Mullaperiyar dam. This debate has opened up a number of issues related to the ownership and use of water between the two states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in the context of the current changes and the loss of relevance of the laws and decisions made during the colonial rule; the water sharing, irrigation and power generation needs of both the states; and the recent concerns on the safety of the dam in Kerala versus the urgent irrigation needs of the agricultural sector in Tamil Nadu.

    1)Height of dam: Tamil Nadu wants to raise the height of dam in order to sustain the demands of rain-shadow districts. However, Kerala oppose the same because that would reduce the water in Idukki district and subsequently there will be fall in power generation 2)Earthquakes and new dam: Kerala wants to construct a new dam 1300 feet downstream the Mullaperiyar dam while Tamil Nadu
    wants to strengthen the existing structure.
    Twenty two dams constructed during 1895-1963 including the Mullaperiyar dam were brought under KDSA’s jurisdiction. 41.45 metres was fixed as safe height for Mullaperiyar’s reservoir. Tamil Nadu took the matter back to the Supreme Court and filed a petition on March 31, 2006 to declare the Kerala act as unconstitutional [4]. In July 2009, following the findings of a recent study by IIT, Roorkee, which had discovered that the dam would collapse if at any time an earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale happened and that nearly forty lakh people who were fearfully anticipating this have to be reassured by allowing the new dam to be built, the Kerala government proposed that a new dam could be built 1,300 feet downstream of the present Mullaperiyar reservoir, so that the safety of the people of Kerala could be assured from the existing high-risk structure, which could fail at any time, endangering lives [6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12].

    Various studies have indicated that the region is prone to earthquake and the dam has grown old, so it may not be able to sustain any tremor of the range 6.5 richter scale. Any hazard could also endanger the lives of people in Idukki.
    The Mullaperiyar dam was constructed with lime and surki, almost 110 years back. Studies have shown that up to 30 tons of surki is being lost from the dam every year. Despite the reinforcement works carried out for providing concrete cover, the frequent leaks and loss of surki continues to endanger the safety of the dam, causing fear in the minds of people. They are not willing to listen to the ‘dam is strong and safe’ story peddled by Tamil Nadu anymore.

    However, the new dam proposed by Kerala government would pose financial burden and can cause damage to Periyar Tiger reserve.

    In the present case, a mutual settlement seems to be a remote solution. The best thing for Union Government would be to ask the SC to provide a meaningful judgment.

    Even after the occupying powers had left the country, the succeeding popular Government of Kerala agreed to honour the agreement that was obviously one sided - in favour of Tamil Nadu - and executed a fresh agreement in 1970, with substantially same provisions.

    It must be remembered that the construction structures grow weak with time. The two states are littoral to Indian Ocean and in case of any hazard, both stands to lose. In this regard, the best possible case would be to investigate the Mullaperiyar dam and then pass a judgment on objective criteria.
    For someone, who is not aware of the geography of South India, this arrangement may seem really unfair for Kerala. But the truth is that, this was inevitable for the entire region. Since 1895, the water from the Mullaperiyar dam has been the lifeline for a large area of Tamil Nadu, with people depending on this project for drinking water, and for irrigation of over 3 lacs acres of land. This water has completely changed the landscape of an area that was prone to draught and famine until then. Denial of water would be disastrous for people and agriculture of these areas spread over 5 districts of Southern Tamil Nadu. Therefore, the arrangement is only fair in the larger interest of the region and the nation.

    • Ash

      You have answered all the question!? Good! 🙂

      Your intro is long.. but helped me understand the issue well…
      I think you should read my answer.. We have different angles… I’m not sure whose is right.. Thus, requesting a review 🙂

      I’m not sure about your conclusion because above you have stated several studies have indicated and earthquake stuff… When studies have indicated then the dam needs rebuilding and moreover it was last worked upon in 1980s I guess! 🙂

      • Batman

        Not all, Just first five questions 🙂
        Well I didn’t find much difference in our opinions. However, you have written a better conclusion (couldn’t remember the details of ISWD Act)

        Regarding your answer, though it is good but an explicit mention of raising the height of dam is missing.

        Remember Supreme Court’s verdict in Endosulfan? Even in the absence of conclusive proof against Endosulfan, it went with the primacy of human life, and banned Endosulfan throughout the country, pending conclusive study on its effects. Also, look at the response of the Tamil Nadu government itself towards the agitation against Koodankulam Nuclear power plant, based on the fear of what might happen if a Tsunami was to hit Tamil Nadu coasts.

        you have talked about water share and the new dam, earthquakes. So, you can add that

        Mullaperiyar Dam, which is located in Kerala, but is owned and operated by Tamilnadu, is a dispute between both the states from a long time.

        If Kerala fears only the Dam then let the new Dam be constructed but TN control it just like this one. Why should Kerala object to it? All this while there are no complaints about water sharing, even now in TN control KL is getting the water it needs …so let the new Dam be built at TN-Central Govt expense in KL but on same operational terms . If there are voices made about State’s Pride being insulted then we can be assured that there is some other sinister motive which common people have no knowledge about. If Kerala intends not to deny TN of even a drop of water then win their confidence by retaining Dam controls with TN.

        The dam was given to Tamilnadu on lease by Kerala and it serves as irrigation source for Tamilnadu, but Kerala has a concern regarding the security of the dam. First it asked that the dam’s water level should not exceed 136 ft. as the dam has become weak over the course of 120 years. But SC intervened and allowed Tamilnadu to fill it up to 145 feet.
        The situation has reached a stage where strict interpretation of legal rights under an agreement will not resolve the issue. Even a layman can say that a dam which was originally projected for a life of 50 years cannot remain safe after 110 years. Cosmetic reinforcements will not make it any more acceptable to the people who are living in fear. 35 lakh people are living in the affected area and will face danger in case anything happens to the dam.

        Now, Kerela wants that a new dam should be build in place of present Mullaperiyar Dam, because it poses threat to millions of life as well as Idukki Dam downstream. Kerala is even ready to bear the expenses of newly constructed dam.
        The Supreme Court went on to order the appointment of an Empowered Committee that was mandated to give its report on certain questions within a period of six months. However, the Committee which was appointed on 30th April, 2010 is yet to complete its proceedings and submit its report. Once the Committee submits its report, the Supreme Court will further hear the case, including constitutionality of the Kerala Act. Going by our current standards, even the Supreme Court may not be able to say when a final Order can be expected on this matter.

        Now, Union government can help in resolving the issue:
        1) It can act as a negotiator between both the states and make them help by finding a common solution without any other body involved.
        2) If that fails, it can ask National Water Tribunal to resolve the issue under River Water Dispute Act, 1956.

        Any agricultural progress shall not be hampered if we have enough source to provide, but that should not come at the cost of loss of life.

        Let the brotherhood between people remain unaffected, even though there are enough forces working to damage that, for their parochial benefits.

        The government shall intervene and check out that both the parties are not at loss.

        • sharmanit

          Hi Tuktuk
          Second paragraph is just one point and you could shorten it up as - Issue of safety due to the age of the dam and height of water level etc.
          Water tribunal cannot be setup unless both the parties decide to set up one.

        Good attempt. ATB

        • Tuktuk

          thanks for the review!! point noted 🙂

    • sharmanit

      Mullaperiyar Dam over the Periyar River in Kerala, maintained and operated by Tamil Nadu, was built in 1890s to divert the water for irrigation and drinking towards the rain shadow regions in Tamil Nadu.

      However, it has remained a contentious issue between the two states due to various reasons-
      1. The dam was leased by the then Maharaja of Travancore to the British for 999 years.

      The Government of Kerala is pushed to the wall. It cannot go against the genuine fear of such a large population. However, till now, its reactions have been very positive. It has adopted the policy of ‘Water for TN and Safety for Kerala’ and has even offered to construct the new dam at its own cost and continue to supply water to Tamil Nadu.

      The validity and fairness of this lease agreement is contended.
      2. Safety of this 120 year old dam and the safe height of water in the reservoir. Dam is situated in seismically active region.
      3. Kerala Government demands the construction of a new dam which is owned and operated by itself after Mullaperiyar is decommissioned.
      However, continuing tremors in the area and increasing leakage from the dam (even after all the reinforcement work) caused public outrage and concern among the people living downstream. The Government of Kerala was forced to pass a law (applicable to all the dams in the State), and thereby stop the efforts of Tamil Nadu to increase the water level to 142 feet and eventually to the maximum capacity of 152 feet.

      But TN fears that this may affect water supply and subsequent crop loss to TN
      4. Releasing of water from the reservoir with out warning have wrecked havoc in the past and inundated forest and wild lives in surrounding Periyar National Park.
      Even though the mainstream national media has not given much attention to the Mullaperiyar issue, it is refusing to die. It is, in fact, exacerbating with the passing days and with increasing water level in the dam due to continuing rains in the catchment area.

      Various obstacles faced by Union Government in the issue-
      1. Interstate River Water Dispute Tribunal under Article 262 can not be set up suo motu and the concerned states are not willing to set up one.
      2. Water is a state subject and Union Government can intervene only in case of inter-state rivers (By enabling Entry 56 in Union List).

      As a result of these agreements, the water from a dam that stood across a river flowing fully within Kerala was made available to the people of Tamil Nadu for their drinking and irrigations requirements (now this water is also used to generate electricity by Tamil Nadu). Not just that, the entire control over the dam was also given to Tamil Nadu authorities, so much so that there were instances when Kerala officials were refused to enter the dam premises even for safety inspection!

      But Periyar lies solely within Kerala.

      In this situation, Union Government can take the following measures to expedite the resolution of the issue-
      1. Provide funding to Empowered Committees set up by the Supreme Court (eg: Justice A S Anand Committee)
      2. Bring the issue in the Inter State Councils or Zonal Councils for discussion.

      The tamilnadu government came to know before itself about the film “dam 999” and the film will make big issue towards all kerala people. So they banned the movie in tamilnadu to release in theatres.

      3. Assist in construction of a new dam in the light of safety concerns and chart out an agreement for fair sharing of water to meet TN’s needs.
      4. Rehabilitation of affected people in case of increase in height of the dam.
      Post completion of reinforcement work, Tamil Nadu wanted to increase the water level back to the original 142 feet. However, continuing tremors in the area caused concerns among people living downstream that this lime and surki dam of such vintage may not survive a major earthquake.

      • Ash

        Hi Sharmanit!:)
        Could you quote the reference of your pt 1 … Interstate River Water Dispute Tribunal …..
        Because I’m refering Laxmikanth which says Centre can solve such matters in 2 ways-
        1. River Board Act- established by Central Govt on State’s request and plays an advisory role
        2. ISWD Act - this empowers the Central Govt to set up an ad hoc tribunal for the adjudication of a dispute b/w 2 or more states, their decisions are a binding.

        For example, a study by the Centre for Earth Science Studies in Kerala has found that the dam will not be able to withstand an earthquake of the magnitude of six on the Richter scale at higher water levels if the epicentre of the earthquake is near the dam. Several earthquakes of lesser magnitudes have occurred in the state during the past two decades and scientists have predicted the possibility of earthquakes of magnitude six occurring in the state. The chances of an earthquake occurring in the vicinity of the dam too are high because of the presence of major lineaments and fault zones in the region [3]. The recent recurrence of mild tremors in Idukki district of Kerala have further triggered the debate on the safety of the dam over the last few months [5].

        . I have quoted from the book itself.

        And please review my answer 🙂

        • sharmanit

          Please check the second point in the above article. Sarkaria Commission had recommended that Inter-State Water Disputes Act should be amended to empower the Union Government to appoint a Tribunal, suo-moto, if necessary.

        Will review yours. 🙂

  • Om Aditya

    Mullaiperiyar dam is a 120 years old dam on periyar and Mullairar River in Kerala and is operated by Tamilnadu government.

    Kerala cannot be expected to remain a mute spectator to the genuine danger to its people. Tamil Nadu cannot afford to lose the right to get water from Mullaperiyar as that would be disastrous to its 5 districts. So the solution is only to ensure a new dam, with adequate protection against any earthquakes, while retaining the right of Tamil Nadu to get continuous supply of water - in other words, Water for Tamil Nadu and Safety for Kerala.

    It a big source of water drinking and irrigation purpose for western tamilnadu. For the last few years this has been cause of dispute between Kerala and tamilnadu. Main reason for this dispute is as follows 1) Structural stability of Dam: - According to Kerala the dam is in its last state and it will get demolished very son due to natural reason.
    Mullaperiyar is a story that is difficult to comprehend even for the people of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, let alone the ‘outsiders’!

    This will affect the residents of Kerala living downstream. According to Tamilnadu and an expert committee set up by state government the dam is in good condition and is not posing any danger.

    2) Level of water in dam: - Kerala government made a law for maximum water level of 136 feet in a 176 feet high dam quashing the SC order of maximum water level of 152 feet. SC stated that as law is unconstitutional 3) Issue over construction of new dam: - Kerala proposed to construct a new dam but tamilnadu government opposed it as it may take longer time to will pose issue of drinking and irrigation water.

    Dont make any comments on the issue until the court decided. Anyway kerala people never obeying the Supreme courts order. Already it made an comment about the strongness of the dam and advised the people about the safetyness of the dam. Tamilnadu government agreed the order and reduced the water level. Thats what thier mistake. Again kerala asking the source of tamilnadu. This time they cant hit the target.

    The lease statement says that for 999 years tamilnadu will operate the dam this is inevitable that dam won’t last for that long and a new dam is required. Central government should intervened in this issue and all three parties must reach a consensus for constructing a new dam as earlier as possible.

    The dam is in a good position. There is no leakage. The kerala governement adamantly keeping the issue big and make their people to take terrorism in their hands. Previous government has not raised any issues in this regard like now.

  • Nares kurapati

    Q) Examine why the Mullaperiyar dam issue has become bone of contention between Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Examine if the union government can help resolve this issue. (200 Words)

    A) Mullaperiyar dam, situated in Thekkady dist in kerala, is a 120 yr old masonry dam, constructed pursuant to the Periyar Lake Lease Agreement in 1886 across Periyar river.

    Meanwhile, Idukki district of Kerala, where the dam is situated, has experienced as many as 22 mild and moderate earthquakes since March, 2011. The latest of these quakes being of 3.1 and 3.2 intensity in November alone. Adding to that, the rains have caused the water level to cross the 136 feet mark. Together these factors are causing sleepless nights to the poor people living on the banks of the river. The local people have been agitating continuously, seeking protection from the dangers of the dam, for six years now. The intensity of the agitation has picked up with the recent earthquakes.

    Though the agreement is for 999 yrs to share waters between TN and Kerala, it became a contention b/w states from long time for various reasons -

    1.Safety concerns, Water permissible levels
    a. Kerala govt said the mullaperiyar dam is weak and pose danger to 4 million ppl downstream, and Idduki dam down the course, and Periyar National park and Periyar Tiger reserve, and sought to create a new dam but TN disagreed due to time taken to create a new dam and 5 districts of TN depend on water for irrigation and drinking requirements.

    The kerala people not having sixth sense and attacking tamil people who are in the origin of kerala. This is a worst case of that people against unity of the nation.There are lot of kerala people staying in Tamilnadu. They would mind it. We are keeping silence due to Unity.

    In 2010, SC appointed Justice Anand committee said the dam is safe and no danger to Idduki dam.
    b. Kerala govt want the water permissible level in dam at 136 ft but TN requested for 142 ft for its irrigation and drinking.
    Petitions were filed for, and against, raising of water levels in the dam. These petitions before Kerala and Madras High Courts were subsequently transferred to the Supreme Court for decision. The Hon’ble Supreme Court took a strict legal view in these cases and permitted raising of water to the level, permitted under the agreement i.e 142 feet.

    The SC permitted TN to increase water level in the dam to 142 ft. In 2006, Kerala passed Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation Amendment Act to prevent TN from raising the water level from 136 ft. In 2014, SC said the law as unconstitutional and void.
    2. Operations, Security of the dam
    1. TN controls and operates the dam but Kerala provides security to the dam.
    Kerala has already said that it is ready bear the cost of new dam. However, Tamil Nadu may want to be a part of it to ensure its continued control over it. These are matters that can be resolved through a court order or negotiation, once the basic principle is accepted by all parties.

    Due to high tensions between states, In 2014, TN approached SC for deploying CISF for security.
    3. Chennai Heavy rains
    1. The recent heavy rains in chennai brought the issue again to the limelight. The opening of dam shutters without giving advance 12 hr warning to kerala, caused havoc in downstream villages in Idduki dist.
    If there is even an iota of doubt, the benefit of doubt should be in favour of safety, as the contractual rights of Tamil Nadu are far inferior to the constitutional right to life of the people of Kerala.

    Kerala govt allege that it would seek legal options and Centre’s intervention regarding this and safety of the dam due to similar heavy rains.

    The centre should
    1. seek If it could employ a new committee or could work together with three member committee created by SC to periodically review the safety of the dam.
    2. explore high-end technology to check the safety of the dam in case of natural calamities like earthquakes, floods etc.
    3. ask states to bind to the protocol like giving advance notice when opening shutters and train state authorities on preparedness, rescue and rehabilitation.

    Since this is a long pending issue and to avoid conflicts between states, the centre should interfere, quickly get-together with states and resolve the issue as it had social, political, environment ramifications.

    Dont keep believing the politicians word and stop spoiling the unity between the state. The supreme court will decide about the strongness of the dam.

    • Shiuli

      The first half is too detailed.. Cut down on the specifics.. Other than that it ok i guess..

  • BST


  • sankar

    Hightening tension over increasing height of the Mullaperiyar Dam, after the permis- sion given to the Tamil Nadu government by the SC, between Kerala and Tamil Nadu is taking a new shape. Both the stake holder have their own concern.

    It is a story of how a foreign power, then occupying the country, using their power, forced a native Kingdom to agree to give up its rights over a river and its water for 999 years, in exchange for a small amount to be paid as rent to the Kingdom. This agreement was inked in 1886.

    Kerala’s concern;
    -Concern over the safety of dam; as 120 year-old Mullaperiyar dam outlived its safe-life period.
    -Safety of people; abnormally heavy rain that experienced by the Chennai could jeoperdise the safety of the dam thus cause flood which cost life and property.
    -Threat to the Periyar National Park(biodiversity hotspot), located around the dam’s reservoir.
    Tamil Nadu’s concern.
    -Around lives of five districts of Tamil Nadu revolved around the water supplied from the dam, be it for irrigation or drinking.
    - Claims after repairing the dam in 1970s, it is safe and sound.
    Scraping the decision taken by Kerala government under the disputed Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation(amendment) Act, 2006, the SC allowed Tamil Nadu to increase the height of the dam to 152 ft. The SC argues that the issue is under the IWDS.
    What I can not understand is why TN is objecting to KL building a new dam. The new dam is only a safety net for KL people. If the current dam stays as is forever (as believed by TN) there is no issue. If, God forbid, the worst happen, at least KL people will be safe with the safety of a new dam. So TN attitude looks like “if we lose water, let KL lose its people’; and that is really sad and cruel! JL please think twice about your attitude.

    Under article 262 which seeks state’s request to set up IWDS tribunal, the centre is unable to take any decision in this regard but the Centre can ensure the proper rehabilitation of the nearby people, water purifier plant for the tamil nadue, allow constructing of new dam, amend the existing IWDS act to empower centre to have a say in this matter.
    If something happens to the dam, it will not only make the people of Kerala suffer, but will also eliminate any further chance of water being given to the people of Tamil Nadu.

    Thus the complexities of the issue is that instead of taking credit for political benefits, the concern and need of people is of prime importance. The interest of people shoul be the ground for the settlement.

    A solution through mutual negotiations seems to be remote as neither party can afford to be seen compromising on their people’s interest. So, the only solution is for the Supreme Court to speed up the proceedings and also to take interim measures, such as lowering the water level.

  • Mithrandir

    Periyar river originates from Western Ghats Cardomom hills in Kerala and then enters Tamil nadu for short distance and take U turn again to Kerala to end in Arabian Sea.

    120 year old Dam in idduki district of Kerala which is home of Munnar and many other tea garden.

    Rapid increase of dam water endangers lives of 35 laks people living in 5 district of kerala.

    It is time Kerala controls the dam and do reconstruction of it with modern construction materials and share water with TN at market rate.

    Considering the present condition of dam which have developed many cracks and porosity and leaking/seeping water.

    Tamil Nadu point is: in 1979 a repair of dam happened and is now safe.

    Tamil Nadu wants Dam authority to increase the level of water so that agriculture and drinking water supply to TN is secured.

    The Response of Tamil Nadu seems of be that of total denial. They refuse to accept that there is any danger to the old dam. They refuse to accept the fact of earthquakes and that the concerns of the people are genuine. They say it is all mere propaganda to promote the release of a commercial movie. Tamil Nadu has a history of water disputes with all its neighbours. In spite of Kerala’s assurances, this history seems to be weighing on its mind. No politician/party in Tamil Nadu wants to be seen as agreeing to a compromise on a ‘water dispute’.

    Remember that issue is not because of water sharing between kerala and TN, but because of safety concerns of Kerala downstream village during crash of dam and water demand of TN which presses Kerala to raise height of Dam water.

    Already a report handed over in the kerala court by its one of the officials about the strongness of the dam. But the adamant government makes it political issue. They wanted to stop the source of tamilnadu.

    Dam has long outlived it’s normal period of water.

    As per the expert committee report, Present condition of dam can’t withstand the raised level of water IF RAISED.

    Dam is located in upper reaches of Kerala Periyar river.

    The kerala government shuts their mouth until the film being released. Then they started their rumours based on the useless movie.

    Structure is built with primitive technology of LIME and MORTAR masonary by British Pennycuick who predicted the structure lifespan as 50yeras.

    In 1884 Princely state of TRAVANCORE signed treat for Lease agreement for 999 years for land lease to British empire to supply water to Madras Presidence.

    We are using buildings built by british goverment which aged more than 200 years but why dont our heart not accepting this dam.

    It was not a fair deal between two unequal party. A tiny princely state of Travancore and mighty british empire.

    It was colonial approach to exploit natural resource of Indian colony.

    Terms of Agreement were blatantly and repeatedly violated by British for her favour. The agreement itself provided settlement of dispute between Leaser and Leasee by ARBITRATION(an Independent person chosen to settle dispute like Panch). But British govt refused to be part of any proceeding in any case of dispute. In 1941 Government of TN requested for the permission for hydroelectric power generation from the Mullaperiyar dam, this was the only time British Govt used arbitration to conclude that as per agreement, Dam water can only be used for IRRIGATION and DRINKING ONLY. It was clearly decided that Leasee has no right to use water other than Irrigation and drinking.

    After 1947 Independence Kerala benevolently allowed TN to use the water for any purpose.

    Hope you will say the same if you were living in Koch (Kerala).

    In 1974 Lease deed Kerala permitted TN to use water for electricity generation. 70TMC water released to TN every year. TN pays Andhra Pradesh Rs 3 crore for 1 TMC water while it pays only Rs 40,000 every year for 70TMC of water.

    By 1979 Dam has already outlived it’s predicted life by 27 years following the detection of several cracks, seepage and leakage. Central Water commission studied and suggested lowering of water reservior to 136ft level untill the dam is repaired and strengthened. Despite, strengthening in 1979, leakage are increasing day by day and becoming more severe. Unfortunately TN forcibly resisting any attempt to evaluate Dam safety.

    In 2006, an Earthquake measuring 2.1 on Ritcher scale was recorded with it’s epicenter barely 17kms from Mullaperiyar dam. Following this STATE DAM SAFETY committee after study concluded that Dam is standing on Seismic zone and not safe. IISc and Geological survey also predicted that Ritcher scale 6 in Dam area.

    Baby Dam of Mullaperiyar is also not in good shape and fastly deteriorating. Infact any mishap can submerge 5 district and Periyar Tiger Reserve and Periyar National Park

    Idduki Dam is Kerala biggest Hydropower electric source. Dangerous consequences to Idduki dam on collapse of Mullaperiyar dam.

    Idduki Dam will not be able to withstand if Mullaperiyar dam collapses and water comes with force to Idduki Dam

    TN always showed reluctance to Kerala request to resolve issue by arbitration. Any talk ended in deadlock. TN has also ignored Supreme court direction to form a committee to look on issue.

    Jayasankar is a Lawyer by education and is currently working as a Director in one of the Corporate Finance advisory companies, heading the Legal and Compliance functions. A product of Indian Air Force, he has done his LLB from the Panjab University, Chandigarh, Masters in Business Law from NLSIU, Bangalore and Masters in Business Administration (HR) from IGNOU. He is an avid reader and a keen observer of current affairs and politics. He blogs at Thoughts and tweets @jay_ambadi.

    In last few years, the water has increased from 136 feet to 139 feet (136 feet considered as safe). This created a panic situation among villages living downstream. Many Idduki district village are living in makeshift way and run away at the slight sign of danger.

    In tamilnadu, the people are not against Koodankulam project. Some viruses like the above Author makes the living people around the koodankulam to sit against the project. Tamilnadu people agrred to start the project.

    Even at the face of such grave danger, Government of Kerala has always asked TN for amicable settlement.

    Kerala understands that Dam water is livelihood issue for TN and hence allowed electricity generation. Also released water for NEYYAAR reservoir of Kerala for TN area which shows large hearted attitude of Kerala Legislators to take such decision. However, TN never listened to Kerala plea for amicable settlement.

    Kerala demands a new dam to be constructed and till then reservoir level to be reduced below 136 feet while TN insists for 142feet to provide water for irrigation and peak electricty supply. Also, water released to be measured and priced with new pricing system.

    • Arjun Nibhani

      thanks …u saved my time in doing background

    • Ash

      Tq! Really helpful! 🙂

    • SKB


  • Ash

    Please Review …..

    Mullaperiyar dam is situated in Kerala and is regulated by Tamil Nadu. Centuries ago a lease agreement was signed between Kerala (then Travancore) and Tamil Nadu (then Madras) according to which a territory was leased to Tamil Nadu for 999 years to construct a dam. In return, Kerala Government was to be paid taxes yearly.

    Bone of Contention:-

    This centuries old dam has developed many leaks. Plus the reservoir is located in an earthquake prone zone. A study by IIT Kharagpur states, the dam would collapse if an earthquake of magnitude 7 or more strikes the area.

    Kerala Government is worried about the large swathes of land downstream which are inhabited, Periyar National Park and adjoining areas which will submerge and cause great damage. So they are ready to construct a downstream reservoir to safeguard lives at their own cost. In return, Kerala Government is demanding the right to regulate this downstream dam along with Tamil Nadu.

    However, Tamil Nadu has refused negotiations under the apprehension that its own share of water would be reduced.

    Kerala has assured Tamil Nadu that the water sharing formula would not change but still Tamil Nadu has not agreed to it.

    The Union Government can solve the problem by allaying Tamil Nadu’s fear of water share reduction and assuring its legitimate share. And still if the state does not agree then it could set up an ad hoc tribunal to resolve the matter under Inter State Water Disputes Act whose decision would be a binding on the States without Supreme Court intervention.

    Tamil Nadu has been bearing the brunt of a massive flood and best understands the loss incurred and should not inflict the same agony on any other state especially when it is preventable.

    • Gabbar is back…

      Comprehensive.. Keep writing… No need to read other references.. Superb…

    • Puja

      good effort ash. very detailed and informative. but as per the qs demand u need to frame the answer in a structured manner. views are personal .

      • Ash

        Agree .. thnx 4 reviewing! Keep reviewing! 🙂

    • Himanshu Rawat

      1- Content is good but presentation could be better. You could presented it in the following way :-

      1) Introduction ( 2 liner )
      - location of dam
      - lease issue 2) Importance of dam and concerns of Kerala ( 2,3 lines )
      3) Importance of dam and concerns of Tamil Nadu (2,3 lines)

      4) Dispute between the two states ( 2 lines )

      5) Provisions in Constitution regarding distribution of water (4 lines )
      - mention article 262 and its limitations.
      - role of tribunals
      - How government can assist. For example technical, financial or availing expertise

      Conclusion ( one liner )
      - need for establishing clear redressal mechanism so that decisions can be taken quickly and general public don’t get suffer.

      As you are all aware in days to come with Mother Nature unleashing her fury for all our past sins, we can expect to see the new dam full or ‘fully’ empty…so let a decision be taken at earliest. I Pray for well being of all souls and for Divine Guidance to our leaders to pick a equitable solution.

      etc etc etc….. a balanced, optimistic and futuristic conclusion is required . 🙂

      • Ash

        Ji Guruji 😛 Looks like you instructing a kid.. but when it comes to forming structures in answers I’m no less … 🙂
        I’m sorry! I missed on this comment of yours…
        Thank you for such a detailed review.. 🙂
        I have started working on the word limit but now I’m missing on points due to words constraint.. May be that comes with practise … Dhanyawad 🙂

        • Himanshu Rawat

          Not Guru just a friend 🙂

  • Tuktuk

    hello goodmorning 🙂
    our answers have a lot of variation!
    see, i think you stretched the first part very much! you dont need to go in that minute detail about IITs or who constructed it or for 999 years lease etc. its not important, i guess 🙂

    I got some points from your answer anyhow!/
    please review mine too! 🙂

  • Samriddhi RV

    ans 3.

  • Maximus

    Mullaperiyar dam is built on kerala land near tamil nadu- kerala border on periyar river. It is leased by kerala state to tamil nadu state for 999 yrs and its maintained and operated by Tamil nadu govt. Mullaperiyar dam was built with life period of 50 yrs. It has now crossed that period by approx 115 yrs.

    Kerala position : Mullaperiyar dam is unsafe and should be dismantled as it poses great threat to population living downstream . It poses danger to 3 other dams on kerala land which are downstream. It is against of increasing the water level further. Kerala is ready to pay all expenses for a new dam and also promises to fulfill any water shortage in tamil nadu state that may arise.

    Tamil nadu position : The dam is safe and additional re-enforcements have been done from time to time. It wants water level height to be further increased and is against building a new dam on the grounds that it will take a very long period and the districts dependent on its water will face severe water shortage.

    N yea, he is comparing 200 year old buildings to a dam. What a common sense.

    In 2010 justice anand committee declared that dam is safe and in 2014 supreme court allowed tamil nadu to increase the water level by 6 ft.

    Although issue is between two states but its affecting millions of people in both the states and union govt should play an active role in resolving this deadlock. A plausible solution is to build a new dam and provide alternate water supply arrangements for tamil nadu in the mean time.

    Union Govt. Measures:
    1-Provide monetory assistance for providing alternative arrangements of water supply for state of tamil nadu for the duration of new dam construction.
    2- Actively engaging state of kerala in releasing water for tamil nadu from other possible routes
    3- Amend IRWD Act to empower union for taking suo motto notice of water disputes for setting up of tribunal for swift decison making.

    Sooner or later some solution has to be found, since patchwork structural re-enforcements can’t go for long and present sticking points are not going to change much with time. Active role of union govt can expedite the process of finding a long lasting solution which could also be an optimistic example for other long standing river water disputes.

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