Monday, December 19, 2011

A counter appeal in answer to “An appeal” in reply to selvi J Jayalatihaa


The Hon!ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu,

With reference to the appeal made as the hon!ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu to the people Kerala on the sensitive Mullaperiyar issue dated dec-10-2011, I would like to bring into your notice the unmentioned facts in your appeal as well as the concerns of the people of Kerala.

You have been very careful in drawing your attention to the historical background of the treaty signed by the then Madras presidency and the princely state of Travancore during the British Raj. But there are some facts that you have missed in your appeal on how such an illogical and imbalanced lease agreement with duration of 999 years was formulated which was apparently against the interests of one party, the state of Travancore.

In the last decades of the ninetieth century, the British were under the illusion that the sun would never set on the British Empire. Resistance to the colonial rule was not so much in picture, the Indian people were not enough reminded of the great heritage they possess and the momentum of the freedom movement was limited. The British must have been under the misapprehension that the empire of their majesty was eternal and must have found nothing irrational in a lease agreement lasting for a millennium.

It was during those days that the agricultural prospects of the drought hit southern areas of the current Tamil Nadu state were explored by the government of the then Madras presidency which was directly under the rule of British India. The solution that the British introduced to cultivate this rain deficient and almost barren region was to divert the water of the west flowing Periyar River eastwards for irrigation purposes.

This solution required the will of the rulers of Travancore to lease the catchment area of Mullayar, a tirbutory of Periyar and additional land for a reservoir to Madras presidency. Here, the British obviously forced Travancore to sign the treaty. The state of Travancore had no option but to sign as it was a protectorate of the British Empire. It is said that H.H Vishakham Thirunal Rama Varma, the then Maharaja of Travacore signed the treaty lamenting “I sign this agreement with the blood of my heart”.

Thus putting the Travancore state in a dismal situation and having had the treaty a reality, the Madras presidency went ahead with the construction of a masonry dam across Mullayar under the supervision of the Engineer Benny Quik. The maximum life of this masonry dam anticipated by Mr. Quik himself was just fifty years. Going by none but by the very designer of the Mullaperiyar dam, the dam should have been decommissioned at most late by the early nineteen fifties and it could have been easier as India had secured Independence and as there would not have been much tension between different regional entities because the states reorganization on linguistic basis was not yet carried out.

But the dam was not decommissioned even after its expected life span and continued to irrigate the five southern districts of Tamil Nadu. I blame none for this mistake in not decommissioning the dam those days as we had just gotten freedom, come out of a catastrophic communal violence following partition and our leadership was onerous in bringing the new Indian state out of a chaotic state.

By the nineteen sixties, green revolution was introduced concerning the food security of the country. For the unawareness of ecological consequences, more and more dams were proposed and erected for irrigation purposes. At that time decommissioning of an already existing dam like Mullaperiyar which cultivates hundreds of thousands of acres of land was even unthinkable.

Half a century down the line the situation has changed. Now in 2011, it will be irrational to assume that a dam with an age of 116 years will be safe for the rest of the lease period of 999 years. Cracks have been reported across the entire basement of the dam. The Roorky IIT, one of the prestigious organizations of the country expertized in the concerned matter has approved that the dam is in danger. Taking into consideration the frequent earth quakes in the region where the dam is situated, the safety concerns of the people of Kerala can not be just given up.

That the Idukki reservoir can accommodate the water of Mullaperiyar reservoir is misleading. Arithmetics apart, this argument may be valid if the entire water of Mullapeiryar reservoir drains to the Idukki reservoir over period of months. But what if the Mullaperiyar dam breaks, let it not happen, and what about the pressure of the water being discharged from Mullaperiyar dam to Idukki reservoir in seconds? Who can guarantee that the three dams, Idukki , Cheruthini and Kulamavu forming the Idukki reservoir can withstand to such an unimaginable and unpredictable pressure of 15 TMC feet of water discharged in seconds from Mullaperiyar?

If at all for the sake of argument we conclude that the Idukki reservoir is capable enough to accommodate the entire water stored in Mullaperiyar dam, What about the fate of Lakhs of people inhabiting in between the two reservoirs of whom a substantial portion are Tamilans? Or can we find peace in the delusion that only a one or two Lakhs people will die and not the millions of people of the five districts, Idukki, Ernakulam, Alapuzha, Kottayam and Thrishoor of Kerala.

Now, what about the economic consequences if the Mullaperiyar dam breaks? Definitely none can guarantee that the Idukki reservoir can resist the pressure of such high quantity of water in case the dam breaks. The entire Ernakulam district will be washed off to the Arabian Sea. The Kochi port, the Kochi International container terminal, the Kochi International airport along with so many industrial establishments will disappear into the Arabian Sea in no time.

I would like to remind you that the Kochi port and the Kochi International container terminal serve not just Kerala, but the industrialized Combatore city and its suburbs in Tamil Nadu as well. The economic impacts will not be minimal just to Kerala but will affect the entire country and the Indian economy may collapse in the worst case.

At any case there will come a day when the decommissioning of the Mullaperiyar dam becomes inevitable. Nobody can wait for a long period of 999 years for that. The leadership and people of Kerala have been unanimous in their stand, “safety for Kerala, water for Tamil Nadu”. So what is wrong in solving the issue with a new dam where Tamil Nadu is guaranteed the same amount of water that it currently receives from the existing dam?

So, in the wake of the above mentioned factors, Ad tuum, appello (I lodge my appeal before you) as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu to support the cause of a new dam in Mullaperiyar. Along with that let us be united in isolating the minute sections of both the sates responsible for chauvinistic acts. Both of us take the stand that violence in the name of Mullaperiyar issue is condemnable, is of unpredictable consequences and in no way helpful in reaching an amicable solution.

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