Kerala Floods: Mullaperiyar water level to be reduced, Centre tells Supreme Court

Murali Krishnan August 17 2018
kerala floods

The sub-committee constituted under Section 9 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) has decided that the water level in Mullaperiyar reservoir should be reduced by two to three feet due to the situation caused by Kerala Floods.

The decision was taken in a meeting held sometime back, pursuant to the direction of the Supreme Court yesterday. It was conveyed by Additional Solicitor General PS Narasimha towards the fag end of the hearing.

The petition filed by Kerala resident Russel Joy was slated to be heard at 2 pm today, but was advanced to 12 pm, since the Court is taking a half-day holiday on account of the death of former Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

When the hearing began at 12 pm, ASG Narasimha told the Court that the meeting of the committees as directed by the Court was still in progress, and that a decision would be taken soon.

Narasimha also informed the Court that the situation at the dam site is being monitored continuously at the "highest level".

The Court was, therefore, inclined to adjourn the matter. However, advocate Manoj George, appearing for the petitioner, made vehement submissions on the need to reduce the water level in Mullaperiyar reservoir.

"Tamil Nadu wants to prove the strength of the dam. Kerala is busy managing floods across the State since whole State is flooded. So what about us citizens?", he asked.

He submitted that the water level in the Mullaperiyar Dam had crossed the permissible level of 142 feet on the night of August 14, whereupon shutters had to be opened for sudden release. It was his argument that the water should be released phase by phase, and that the water level be brought down to 139 feet.

Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra then proceeded to ask Senior Counsel Shekhar Naphade, appearing for the State of Tamil Nadu, whether it was possible to bring down the water level to 139 feet.

Naphade said that it will only cause further flooding in Kerala.

"If height is reduced, more water will flow down and more damage will be caused."

CJI Misra said his query was whether water could be taken and stored in Tamil Nadu, and not about releasing water downstream.

Naphade replied,

"Our maximum storage limit has already been reached."

George then told the Court that water should be released downstream phase by phase.

The Court then proceeded to pass its order. It directed that the sub-committee under Section 9, the NCMC, and the committee appointed by Supreme Court vide its 2014 judgment to hold a meeting for two purposes:

  1. Explore the possibility of reducing water level in Mullaperiyar reservoir to 139 feet.
  2. To decide measures on limiting damage caused due to release of water downstream.

The Court also directed the Chief Secretary of Kerala to file an affidavit detailing the steps taken to meet the situation and for rehabilitation of affected persons.

The Court also ordered that the decision taken with respect to reduction of water level should be scrupulously followed by Tamil Nadu.

As the Court was about to rise, ASG Narasimha said that the sub-committee and the NCMC have taken the decision to bring down the water level in the Mullaperiyar reservoir by 2 to 3 feet.

The case is now listed for hearing on August 24.