'TN will continue to have control of Mullaiperiyar dam'

The Tamil Nadu government will continue to have full control over operations and maintenance of the Mullaiperiyar dam and the Dam Safety Bill 2019 will not alter the existing arrangements, Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said on Monday.

According to a release issued by the ministry, Shekhawat told a delegation of Tamil Nadu ministers and AIADMK MPs, led by state Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar, that the bill will not alter the existing arrangement of dam ownership, its operation and maintenance, and the water rights of Tamil Nadu.

The Centre has been sensitive in modifying the provisions contained in the 2010 bill because of the state's genuine concern, and in the present bill the state dam safety organization of Kerala will have no jurisdiction over the Mullaiperiyar dam or other reservoirs of Tamil Nadu, he said.

This modification was evolved during a discussion with states in the 37th meeting of the national committee on dam safety (NCDS) held in February 2017 at Roorkee to allay the concerns raised by Tamil Nadu representatives and this modification was found satisfactory by all concerned parties.

Shekhawat said the newly provisioned role played by the national authority as State Dam Safety Organisation (SDSO) will facilitate the Tamil Nadu government in taking care of long pending works, eventually meeting the requirement of raising reservoir level as envisaged by empowered committee.

The minister told the TN delegation that he had on November 21 informed the Lok Sabha that Mullaiperiyar dam was safe as per Supreme Court's empowered committee.

He had also requested Kerala to cooperate in providing electricity, an access road, and other amenities to the Tamil Nadu government for the day-to-day maintenance of the dam.

Earlier, the Tamil Nadu delegation expressed concern that the bill would affect the ownership and control of Mullaiperiyar dam and other similar dams of TN in Kerala, and the national authority would dilute the role of state dam safety organization.

Later, state minister Jaya Kumar told reporters that Tamil Nadu had requested Shekhawat to exempt it from the provisions of the dam safety bill as there were five dams in the state having inter-state control and rights.

The MPs, led by AIADMK's A Navaneethakrishnan, also sought for increasing the level of water in Mullaiperiyar up to 152 feet instead of 136 feet.

The dam safety bill, approved by the Lok Sabha in the Monsoon Session, is pending in the Rajya Sabha. The bill provides for proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of all specified dams in the country to ensure their safe functioning.

It provides for the constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety which will evolve dam safety policies and recommend necessary regulations as may be required for the purpose.

India has 5,344 big dams and around 470 under construction. It is the third country in the world, after the USA, China to have the highest number of dams. However, over 293 of them are more than 100 years old and nearly 1,000 over 50 years old. 

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