NEW DELHI: The Union Environment Ministry tied itself in knots over pre-feasibility study for construction of a new dam at Mullaperiyar in Kerala, first by giving a nod and later retracting that the proposal is still under consideration. Tamil Nadu and Kerala have differences over the new dam and the former is opposing it.
Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) issued a clarification late Thursday evening denying approval for EIA study to Kerala. The clarification contradicts Ministry’s earlier decision of May 14, 2015 where it clearly stated that proposal was accepted by Member Secretary. Kerala applied for the Terms of Reference for seeking environment clearance for the new Mullaperiyar dam to replace the existing old Mullaperiyar dam based on safety consideration on May 12.
An official clarifying Central Ministry’s stand further stated that the proposal for EIA study is still under consideration and no action has been taken. It is contrary to the status of the proposal on Ministry’s Website which clearly says the proposal “IA/KL/RIV/27657/2015 (File No. J-12011/13/2015-IA-1) dated May 12, 2015” has been accepted by the Member Secretary on May 14, 2015.
In May, the Supreme Court has rejected Tamil Nadu government’s plea seeking to prevent Kerala from carrying out EIA for new Mullaperiyar dam. The National Board for Wildlife has cleared the proposal for EIA in December 2014 as the area falls inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve.
In its petition before the apex court, Tamil Nadu had sought a directive preventing Kerala from carrying out any activity related to the proposed dam, including drilling boreholes in the region and carrying out surveys or inspections.
However, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) did several filp-flops over its approval for EIA by issuing two different clarifications on Thursday. In its first clarification the Ministry said “No approval has been granted for Terms of Reference for construction of new Mullaperiyar dam in Idukki district of Kerala.”
Subsequently, it released another clarification stating that “No approval has been granted for carrying out Environment Impact Assessment study for construction of new Mullaperiyar dam in Idukki district of Kerala.”
In the covering letter to the MoEF, the Chief Engineer of the irrigation board, Kerala said that the structure has already outlived its-safe life, and now it has become unsafe to retain it.
“The old dam is now having a water spread area of 3475.78 hectares. By constructing the new dam the additional area downstream of old dam going to be submerged is only 25.66 hectares. The total area required for the entire construction purposes, toe protection zone, including this new water spread area is only 50.0 Hectares,” said the letter.
It further said that from 1895 onwards, Tamil Nadu is utilizing the waters of Mullaperiyar dam for irrigation and drinking water requirements.
“State of Kerala does not desire to deprive Tamil Nadu of the Mullaperiyar waters on which their needy farmers are greatly dependent. State of Kerala has taken a decision to build a new dam downstream of the present Mullaperiyar dam only to achieve the twin goals of protecting the lives and properties of its people and for ensuring continued supply of water to Tamil Nadu,” it added.
Mullaperiyar dam is a masonry dam and was constructed pursuant to the Periyar Lake Lease Agreement of October 29, 1886 across Periyar river. The construction continued for about eight years and was completed in 1895.The dam is situated in Thekkady district in Kerala and is owned and operated by Tamil Nadu government. The length of the main dam is 1200 feet and top of the dam is 155 feet.