Water wars have broken out again in the Southern part of India, this time between Tamil Nadu and Kerala over building of another dam in Kerala over the Periyar river.
After Kerala obtained permission from the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to do a feasibility test to build a new dam, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E Palanisamy has urged PM Modi to intervene and order the MoEF to 'to desist from entertaining and considering any proposal of Kerala govt on new Mullaperiyar dam in future and to negate the proposals which are in violation of the orders of SC'.
Other political parties in Tamil Nadu too joined the government in berating the Kerala government, with the DMK demanding that the Tamil Nadu government file contempt of court against the MoEF.
The 123-year old dam in Idukki district in Kerala is operated by Tamil Nadu and has been a point of discord between the two states for several decades now.
The conflict resurfaced after the environment assessment committee gave its nod to the Kerala government’s bid to conduct a feasibility test to build a dam for Rs 663 crore over the Mullaperiyar river.
Apart from tussle over the increase of height in the dam and building of other dams across the river, in August, there was another bone of contention, with the Kerala government accusing Tamil Nadu of not issuing a warning before releasing excess water in the dam, leading to one of the worst deluges in Kerala.
Even as Kerala has been expressing concerns over the raising of the height of the existing dam, citing reasons of large-scale devastation in case of an earthquake, the Supreme Court, in December 2017, had allowed Tamil Nadu to raise the height to 152 feet from the 136 feet, after reinforcing the current infrastructure.
In 2014, SC appointed empowered committee had submitted that the Mullaperiyar dam was safe ‘hydrologically, scientifically and structurally’, dealing a blow to Kerala's arguments about the weakening of the dam and demand to build a new one.
Now, despite the MoEF stating that the accent to conduct a study and collect data does not give Kerala the go-ahead to build the new proposed dam, and any step in that direction will be taken only after consultation with Tamil Nadu, as per SC directives, the move has sparked off a political row in Tamil Nadu where water disputes have been deeply emotional issues and thus entrenched in politics.