The supervisory committee should take a “firm decision” on the maximum water level to be maintained in the over-a-century-old Mullaperiyar dam, the Supreme Court said on Monday when the issue was raised before it in view of heavy rains in Kerala.
Mullaperiyar Dam was built in 1895 on Periyar River in Idukki district of Kerala.
The apex court directed all the authorities concerned to interact immediately on an urgent basis on the issue saying it has something to do with lives.
“Everyone should act seriously and sincerely. This is something to do with lives. Somebody’s lives and property will be at risk. Everybody should act seriously. This is not a political arena where you can debate,” a bench comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and C T Ravikumar said.
The bench, which was hearing the matter pertaining to the dam, was told by the counsel appearing for one of the petitioners that due to heavy rains in Kerala, the water level has been rising and lives of around 50 lakh people could be in danger.
The counsel appearing for Kerala, while referring to torrential rains in catchment area of the dam, said the water level should not be raised beyond 139 feet, as was directed by the apex court in August 2018 when the state was hit by floods.
The counsel representing Tamil Nadu apprised the bench that the water level at 9 AM on Thursday was at 137.2 feet.
“We direct all the authorities concerned to interact immediately on urgent basis and the committee to take a firm decision about the maximum water level to be maintained in the dam,” the bench said.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati told the bench that the committee has filed a status report before the court.
“An issue has been raised that there is immediate need to specify the maximum water level to be maintained at the dam. That is the issue raised today. If there is immediate need, have you examined that aspect or not. Can you take instructions,” the bench asked Bhati.
The ASG said she will take instruction on the issue.
“Understand the anxiety of the other parties. Some may refute it, some may pursue that contention but the committee has to take a decision what should be the maximum level keeping in mind the risk factors involved,” the bench observed.
It said the court cannot decide the water level and it is for the committee to take a call on this.
The apex court said the concern of all the parties must be addressed by the committee immediately within a day or two.
The counsel appearing for Kerala said that till then, Tamil Nadu should maintain the water level at 137.2 feet.
The bench told Kerala’s counsel that their officers should responsibly interact with the concerned officers of Tamil Nadu and the committee on the issue.
It observed that any serious situation on the ground should be dealt with by all the concerned parties.
“If you do your job, we don’t have to do this,” the bench observed, adding that because of inaction on the part of any of the parties, the court has to decide on this.
The bench has posted the matter for hearing on October 27.