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A Plan for Resolving Mullaperiyar Conflict

(For Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India)

The Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India has been closely following the Mullaperiyar issue for the last several years. The polarisation of views around the Mullaperiyar has hardened over the years. The Tamil Nadu government insists that the Mullaperiyar dam is safe and that the water level must be maintained at the maximum level as per the agreement. The Kerala government insists that a new dam, downstream of the present dam, must be built because the present dam is unsafe. The recent tremors with their epicentres near the dam and the already diminishing trust and rising fears and apprehensions on both sides have created a grave situation needing immediate intervention and your initiative in getting the two parties together is a welcome move.

However, we believe that both positions are flawed and there is a need to think beyond them. The 115 years old Mullaperiyar dam shows all the signs of the ravages of time. Expert opinion on the safety of the dam is divided; while there are experts who believe that the dam would be safe with certain repairs, others believe that the dam may be unsafe, based on hydrology studies as well as the technology and material used for dam construction. The dam is located in a seismically sensitive zone and recently there have been a series of tremors with epicentres close to the dam.

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