Mullaiperiyar dam: Supervisory committee can deal with structural safety issue, suggests SC

The Supreme Court on Thursday suggested to Tamil Nadu and Kerala that issues regarding structural safety of the 126-year-old Mullaiperiyar dam can be left to be dealt with by the supervisory committee which can be strengthened.

An advocate, appearing for the supervisory committee, told the bench that she is being led by Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati in the matter.
The lawyer said the recommendations passed by the supervisory committee after discussion with both the states are not being followed and the directions passed are not implemented.
The bench said it can have some accountability on the chief secretaries of the states.
The communication can be sent by the supervisory committee to the concerned department and the chief secretaries of the states so that the chief secretary will be made accountable for non-compliance and it will be treated as contempt of court, The bench observed.
Senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, appearing for Kerala, continued his arguments in the matter and referred to the rule curve and safety issues.
The bench said the structural safety issue has to be gone into by the experts.
It said the supervisory committee can be strengthened and time lines for every activity, every direction given by the panel and someone accountable if it is not implemented, has to be there.
The bench posted the matter for March 29 and asked both the parties to give a road map which can be accepted and made part of the court order.
When an advocate, appearing for one of the petitioners, argued about functioning of the supervisory committee, the bench said, We cannot permit you to question the supervisory committee constituted by this court.
Whether it is safe or unsafe, it is for the experts to define that, it said, adding, Don’t create a situation that it becomes unresolvable.
The counsel appearing for Kerala had on Wednesday told the bench that the process for setting up a new dam in the downstream reaches of the existing dam should start and the upper rule level of Mullaperiyar dam should be 140 feet and not 142 feet.
The Kerala government had earlier told the apex court that “no amount of rejuvenation” can perpetuate the dam and there is a limit to the number of years one can keep dams in service through maintenance and strengthening measures.
In its response to the affidavit filed by Kerala, the state of Tamil Nadu had earlier said that repeated assertion of Kerala and petitioners from there in the pleas filed from time to time seek to decommission of the existing dam and construction of a new dam, which is wholly impermissible in the light of the apex court verdict on the safety of the dam.
“The dam has been found to be hydrologically, structurally, and seismically safe, Tamil Nadu had said.

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