NEW DELHI: TO prevent a disaster at the Mullaiperiyar dam site, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Central, Tamil Nadu and Kerala governments to set up three separate panels to exclusively prepare for disaster management.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, however, clarified that the proposed panels would only deal with the disaster aspect of the dam situated in Kerala.
The court clarified in its order that these special committees have nothing to do with the lifespan or safety of the dam. The court directed that the three special committees would work in harmony.
It made clear that the issues relating to safety and life span of the historic dam would continue to be dealt with by an existing panel, which was set up following the five-judge Constitution bench verdict in 2014.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by Kerala-based Russel Joy, who was representing the residents of the affected region and sought a direction to authorities concerned that a study be conducted by international experts on the issue of safety and life span of the dam.
Over three million residents who live near the dam are in constant fear that any disaster may hit them in the near future.
The petitioner had also sought decommissioning of the dam on the ground that it has become too old and the right to life of people residing in the downstream area has been infringed.
“People live in fear and an emergency plan should be in place,” advocate Manoj George, for the petitioner told the bench.
Referring to various studies, he said the life span of a dam, which is man made, is only 50 years. The government has admitted that 196 dams in country are more than 100 years old.
According to the petition, the dam was constructed across the river Periyar using crude lime surki mortar, at a time when dam engineering was in its infancy as a composite gravity structure.
Clarifying Centre’s stand, Attorney-General K K Venugopal submitted that the Centre is aware of the dangers regarding dam disasters and has taken over the check of 5,000 dams across the country and a committee has already been constituted to keep a close watch on the safety of the Mullaiperiyar dam and recommend preventive measures in compliance with the 2014 judgment.
Mullaperiyar Dam is a masonry dam and was built 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.