Tamil Nadu CM Palaniswami writes to PM over Kerala’s proposal for new dam

The Tamil Nadu government on Wednesday wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, opposing the Centre’s nod to Kerala’s proposal to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment Study for construction of a new dam in place of the existing Mullaperiyar reservoir.

In the letter, Chief Minister K Palaniswami said a committee under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had last month recommended for grant of Terms of Reference of Kerala’s proposal to conduct the Environmental Impact Assessment Study for the construction of a new dam.

“This has caused great apprehension and consternation among the people of Tamil Nadu,” he said, adding that the move violated the Supreme Court order on the issue over which the two states are locked in dispute.

Palaniswami said the Expert Appraisal Committee for River Valley and Hydro Electric Projects had made the recommendation at a meeting held on September 27.

Kerala government approaching the Centre on the issue and the latter entertaining it were “in gross violation of the decree” of the Supreme Court on the inter-state dispute, the chief minister said.

Quoting from the May 2014 court verdict, he said: “For the construction of a new dam, there has to be agreement of both the parties. The offer made by Kerala cannot be thrust upon Tamil Nadu.”

He further said Kerala had in August 2014 “stealthily” obtained clearance for such a study for the construction of a new dam without informing or consulting Tamil Nadu or obtaining its concurrence on the matter.

This was “in utter defiance” of the court decree, he said, and recalled that Tamil Nadu had to later issue a contempt notice against the member-secretary of the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife and Wildlife Preservation Officer.

He drew Modi’s attention to then chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s letter to him in June 2015 seeking his intervention to instruct the Environment Ministry and its agencies to “desist from entertaining and considering” Kerala’s proposal in future.

Following this, the Centre had delisted Kerala’s proposal in July 2015, he said.

Palaniswami urged the prime minister to personally intervene and direct the Environment Ministry to forthwith withdraw the recommendations to grant Terms of Reference for the study.

The chief minister also requested Modi to direct the Environment Ministry to desist from entertaining any future proposal by Kerala on a new dam, and “also to negate the proposals which are in violation of the orders of the Supreme Court.”

The centuries-old Mullaperiyar dam is located in high-range Idukki district of Kerala and is operated by Tamil Nadu under an inter-state agreement.

Kerala has been insisting on building a new dam, citing safety concerns of the existing structure.

In its May 2014 verdict, the apex court had allowed Tamil Nadu to raise the storage at Mullaperiyar to 142 feet and ultimately to 152 feet after completing strengthening measures on the dam.