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

New Delhi, Aug 24: 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.

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.

Karnataka and Tamil Nadu sought time to file response on a PIL seeking directions for management of water in the Mullaperiyar dam reservoir and announcement 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.

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.

Some 370 people have died since the monsoon rains began on May 29 and 1 million people are still sheltered in relief camps after torrential rains and the opening of the sluice gates of dams led to the worst floods in Kerala in nearly a century.

On August 18, the top court had asked the Chief Secretary of Kerala to file an affidavit on steps being taken for disaster management, rescue and rehabilitation of those affected.

The court had suggested that the Disaster Management sub-committee, National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) and the court-appointed committee should meet to explore the possibility of reducing the water-level in the Mullaperiyar dam reservoir to 139 feet.

The petition was filed by Kerala resident Russel Joy, who also sought direction to Tamil Nadu to ensure proper management of water release from the dam so that no harm is caused to people living downstream.

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