Mullaperiyar dam water level to be kept at 139.99 ft till August 31, SC told (Lead)

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New Delhi : Keeping in view the unprecedented floods in Kerala, the Supreme Court on Friday agreed with the Disaster Management sub-committee that the water level at Mullaperiyar dam be maintained at 139.99 feet till August 31.

The Mullaperiyar reservoir, which is situated in Kerala, in the upper reaches of the Western Ghats above Idukki reservoir, is operated by the Tamil Nadu government.

Tamil Nadu denied the Kerala government claim that the sudden release of water from the Mullaperiyar dam by the Tamil Nadu government was one of the reasons for the massive floods in the state.

Tamil Nadu said the release of water from Mullaperiyar dam was "very little" compared to the water released from Idukki dam and other large number of dams in Kerala due to unprecedented rains.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud took into note the Centre's submission that on August 23, the sub-committee had met and directed the Tamil Nadu government to ensure the water level is maintained at 139.99 feet.

In the meeting it was decided that the level at the Mullaperiyar dam be maintained 2-3 feet below permissible limit of 142 feet till August 31, the Additional Solicitor General P.S. Narasimha, appearing for the Centre, told the court.

He said secretaries of both Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been informed of the decision.

The two states will cooperate and follow the directions of the sub-committee on Mullaperiyar dam, said the bench, while making it clear it would confine itself to the aspect of human lives and disaster management only.

The bench said it would not treat the matter as a dispute between the two states.

"Rains have stopped. There is a change in the circumstances. Our focus will now only be on disaster management and dam maintenance," said the bench.

"We are only concerned with the safety and lives of people," the court said and posted the matter for hearing on September 6.

Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade appearing for Tamil Nadu told that bench that the present litigation in Kerala flood is a ploy to get over 2014 apex court judgement which fixed permissible water limit for Mullaperiyar dam at 142 feet.

In an affidavit filed before the top court by the member of Water Resources department of Tamil Nadu, it said the state was "fully committed and concerned with the safety of the people living in the downstream of the Mullaperiyar dam".

Tamil Nadu said that the Mullaperiyar dam was hydrologically, and structurally safe for maximum water level condition of 155 feet.

The Tamil Nadu government said that flood surplus from the Idukki dam is mainly due to the flows generated from its own independent catchment due to unprecedented heavy rainfall while the contribution from Mullaperiyar dam was significantly less.

"The lower Periyar basin, apart from receiving the surplus waters from Idukki dam, receives surplus from Idamalayar Reservoir, Bhuthathankettu Reservoir etc., in Kerala, which also contributed to the flooding of lower Periyar area. Thus the spillage from Mullaperiyar dam is far less when compared to the total surplus flow from the Idukki, Idamalayar and other tributaries of Periyar basin," affidavit stated.

Tamil Nadu further stated that after the completion of remaining strengthening works, and after review by independent experts, the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam could be restored to Full Reservoir Level (FRL) of plus 152 feet.

Seeking dismissal of the plea filed before the top court in the Kerala flood issue, Tamil Nadu government said petitioner sensationalised the issue and misguide the court, which should not be permitted.

During the hearing Karnataka sought time to file response on a PIL seeking directions for management of water in the Mullaperiyar dam reservoir and announcement of a disaster management plan concerning the dam.

On Thursday Kerala government through an affidavit told the apex court that the sudden release of water from the Mullaperiyar dam by the Tamil Nadu government was one of the reasons for the massive floods in the state.

In an affidavit filed by the Chief Secretary, the Kerala government had said that as the water level crossed 137 feet at Mullaperiyar dam, authorities in Kerala decided to evacuate people who lived in the dam's downstream.

Of the total population of about 3.48 crore, more than 54 lakh or one-sixth of the population of Kerala had been directly affected by the floods, said the affidavit.