The ongoing battle between the governments of two south Indian states, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, over the Mullaperiyar Dam issue, could be resolved soon; a Supreme Court-appointed Empowered Committee began its first meeting with all concerned parties in New Delhi on Monday.
The five-member committee, headed by former Supreme Court Justice A.S. Anand, began discussions at the office of the Central Water Commission, in R.K.Puram, New Delhi. In addition, to Anand the committee also has two former Supreme Court judges, including K.T. Thomas (representing Kerala) and A.R. Lakshman (representing Tamil Nadu), as well as two former central government officials.
The expert committee will hear the petition filed by the Kerala government, asking for permission to lower the water level in the dam to 120 feet. According to media reports, the committee has asked various agencies to conduct tests at the dam and will then frame a draft report to submit to the apex court by the end of January.
Monday's meeting comes just a day after M. Thambidurai, the leader of a delegation of Tamil Nadu-based Members of Parliament, accused his counterparts in Kerala of spreading inaccurate information.
Meanwhile, two Kerala ministers - the Water Resources Minister, PJ Joseph, and the Revenue Minister KM Mani - started a day-long fast, in New Delhi and Kerala, respectively.
Mullaperiyar Dam Issue:
The water of the 116-year-old Mullaperiyar dam is supplied to Tamil Nadu for drinking and irrigation as per the 999-year lease between the Princely State of Travancore and the British Presidency of Madras (now Tamil Nadu), in 1886.
According to the deed, the Presidency had the right to divert all waters of the Mullaperiyar and its catchment to its territory for 999 years.
In 2006, the Supreme Court allowed for an increase in the dam's storage levels to 142 feet (43m). The Kerala government, however, defied the order, promulgating, instead a new Dam Safety Act, citing structural weakness of the dam as a reason. They offered to build a second dam, at a mutually agreeable site. The Dam Safety Act was not objected to by the Supreme Court. The Tamil Nadu government, however, did challenge the proposition, claiming they suspected ulterior motives on the Kerala government's part.