KOCHI: While the Dam Safety Act passed by the Parliament has triggered a debate, activists and legal experts are of the opinion that it will benefit Kerala especially in the backdrop of the Mullaperiyar dam dispute. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin had condemned the Centre’s move to bring out the bill which he alleged was against the federal principles and powers of state governments.
The bill says it is expedient in public interest that the Centre take under its control the regulation of uniform dam safety procedure for specified dams. It provides for perpetual surveillance and monitoring of operation and maintenance of all specified dams.
Former union minister of state for tourism Alphons Kannanthanam said the National Dam Safety Authority to be formed as per the Act will be in control of the Mullaperiyar dam as it is an interstate reservoir. “Though the dam is operated by TN, the structure and catchment area are located in Kerala. Considering the safety concerns raised by Kerala, we can expect the intervention of the national authority in the operation of the dam,” he said.
Supreme Court Advocate Kaleeswaram Raj said the formation of the dam safety organisation should be preceded by a policy on dams. “It is always good to have a dam safety organisation at the Centre and state which will have a symbiotic relationship,” he said.
“As it is a question of human safety, it should not be made a controversy. As Mullaperiyar is a matter of concern for Kerala, a legislation by the state will also have legal validity. The committees at the national and state level should work cordially giving primacy to the safety of people. Meanwhile, the proposal to build a new dam at the ecologically-sensitive area is unscientific and insane,” he said.
The formation of a national authority will be in Kerala’s interests as the monitoring by a national agency will help in effectively addressing the state’s safety concerns, said former chairman of Mullaperiyar Protection Council K A Mohandas. “The dam and catchment area are located in Kerala and TN is reaping the benefits. It is not concerned about the safety of people living in downstream areas. Despite heavy rain, they are more concerned about maintaining water at the maximum permissible level,” he said.