- The Supreme Court ordered the reconstitution of the Mullaperiyar dam’s supervisory committee, which will include one technical expert each from TN and Kerala, and empowered the panel with functions and powers on par with those of the National Dam Safety Authority, a body envisaged under the Dam Safety act, 2021.
- For any act of failure, “appropriate action” will be taken against the persons concerned not only for having violated the directions of the court but also under the act.
About Mullaperiyar Dam issue
- Dam is located in Idukki district of Kerala on the confluence of the Mullayar and Periyar rivers.
- Dam is owned, operated, and maintained by Tamil Nadu for several purposes, including irrigation, drinking water supply, and hydropower generation.
- In late 1979, after the eruption of the controversy over the structural stability of the dam, it wasdecided at a tripartite meetingthat the water level be lowered to 136 feet against the full reservoir level of 152 feet so that Tamil Nadu could take up strengthening measures.
- In 2006 and 2014 the Supreme Court held that the water level is raised to 142 feet,up to which Tamil Nadu stored water even last year (2021).
- The court’s judgment of 2014 also provided for the formation of the supervisory committeeand the completion of the remaining work by Tamil Nadu.
- But, there has been no end to litigation over the damwith Kerala witnessing landslides in recent years.
- Though there had been no reports of landslides in the vicinity of the dam site, the events in other parts of the State led to a renewed campaign against the dam.
- The Kerala government proposed that the existing dam be decommissionedand a fresh one be built
- These options are not completely acceptable to Tamil Naduwhich wants to complete the remaining strengthening work and restore the level to 152 feet.
Dam Safety Act 2021
The act is aimed at addressing the long-felt need for addressing issues concerning the safety of major dams all over the country.
It provides for surveillance, inspection, operation, and maintenance of certain dams for prevention of disasters related to dam failure, apart from institutional mechanisms to ensure their safe functioning.
The Act covers those dams having a height of over 15m and between 10m and 15m with certain stipulations.
Create two National Institutions:
- National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS): It seeks to evolve dam safety policiesand recommend necessary regulations, and the
- National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA): It seeks to implement policies and address unresolved issuesbetween the two States. The NDSA will be the regulatory body.
Create two State Level Institutions:
- The legislation also envisages the formation ofState Dam Safety Organisations and State Committees on Dam Safety.
- Dam owners will be held responsiblefor the construction, operation, maintenance, and supervision of dams.
How does the Dam Safety Act Affect Mullaperiyar?
- Since the act provides that theNDSA will perform the role of the State Dam Safety Organisation for a dam located in one State and used by another,the Mullaperiyar dam, strictly speaking, comes under the purview of the NDSA.
- Besides, the Supreme Court, which has been hearing petition after petition after its judgment in 2014, mooted the idea of extending the powers of its supervisory committeeto take over charge of the safety and maintenance of the structure.
- The Periyar River is thelongest river in the state of Keralawith a length of 244 km.
- It is also known as the ‘Lifeline of Kerala’as it is one of the few perennial rivers in the state.
- Periyar River originates fromthe Sivagiri hills of the Western ghat,in Tamil Nadu and flows through the Periyar National Park.
- The main tributariesof Periyar are Muthirapuzha,Mullayar, Cheruthoni, and Perinjankutti.