Engr. K Vijayachandran F.I.E

Kerala legislative assembly was aggrieved on the Supreme Court verdict of 7th May, on Mulla Periyar Dam (MPD). Kerala Government’s MPD folio  is 35 years old: Sri OOmmen Chandy is the eighth or ninth Chief Minister, piloting the case.

Having exhausted all possible doors of litigation, the members of Kerala Legislative Assembly have unanimously appealed to the President of India and to the Federal Government, to ask the Supreme Court to reverse its latest verdict on the 119 year old MPD, using provision No 143 of the Indian Constitution, considering the environmental impact of raising the maximum water level to 142 feet and the consequent threat to life and property of four million people, living downstream.

Environmental damage is a totally new argument in the 35 year old MPD litigation: But the threat to life and property of people has been dealt with exhaustively by the print and visual media of Kerala and even a horror film, named DAM 999, with plenty of Hollywood clippings and bloated dead bodies swimming all around . It was exhibited in the Cinema houses of Kerala with very little impact and banned later by TN Government.

Supreme Court, with the help of its five-member Empowered Committee (EC), had evaluated the safety of MPD operations threadbare. In fact a major part of its lengthy information-rich report relates to the safety concerns raised by the media and Government of Kerala, within and outside the court. EC has studied in detail, (a) the hydraulic safety, (b) the structural safety, and (c) the seismic safety of MPD operating at 142 feet level in every detail, and also got done an elaborate dam breaking analysis. The results were found OK and MPD declared safe by the highest judicial establishment in the country.

These studies conforming to international standards were made available for the review and scrutiny of all concerned, including GOK, before presenting them in the open court. The Supreme Court judgment was all praise for the elaborate work done by the EC and its subcommittees: “The reports and investigations, tests and studies (ITS reports) are contained in 50 CDs and 4 DVDs. The report of EC consists of 8 Chapters. Chapter I has the title “Dams – An Overview”. Chapter II deals with three aspects, viz., (a) Use of Periyar waters; (b) Evolution of Periyar Project; and (c) Mullaperiyar dam Dispute in the Supreme Court. ….

……Chapter VI is appraisal and analysis of the reports of technical investigations, tests and studies. Chapter VII records conclusions. Chapter VIII deals with general observation with the title, “Way Forward-Towards An Amicable Resolution”. Two notes, one from Justice K.T. Thomas, member of the EC, and the other from Justice (Dr.) A.R. Lakshmanan, member of the EC, on Chapter VIII of the report of the EC are also appended to the report.” (para 185 of the SC report)

It took little more than two years for the EC to collect and collate field data and compile its eight chapter report with the help of numerous experts, specialist institutions and task forces. SC judges took another two years to organize hearings and analyze the massive volumes and filter through the numerous law points, relevant as well as irrelevant, that are typical of India’s archaic legal system, to finalize its 158 page judgment of May 2014.

MPD judgment is monumental proof for the technological as well as the legal maturity of India’s Federal Institutions. Unfortunately they are being rubbished by opportunist politics under pressure from vested interests, who stand benefited by the billion dollar real estates built on the land vacated by the reservoir thanks to prolonged low level operations of MPD.

Local media, print as well as visual, were playing up Kerala patriotism by blindly supporting these illegal occupants of reservoir lands. Environmental and other consequences raising the MPD level once again after three decades of low level operations were brought to public attention, even as early as in June 2007, when the Hindu newspaper published the extracts from an official study report by the  expert committee headed by Dr. D Ghosh, appointed by GOK. I had dealt with this in detail in an earlier blog:

Surprisingly, there was no follow up on this seven-year old news-report either by the Hindu or by any other media who are normally over-enthusiastic on any environmental issue. It looks strange that GOK did not show the courage or wisdom to place Dr. Ghosh’s report in public domain or place it before the Supreme Court in support of its demand for restricting the MPD level.

Dr. Ghosh had studied in detail the environmental and other consequences of raising the MPD level beyond 136 feet: His report should be released immediately and placed in public domain.

eod/11th June 2014