While hearing upon a contentious issue, the Supreme Court on the 25th of October directed the Supervisory Committee to take a firm and immediate decision on the maximum water level which can be maintained at Mullaperiyar Dam. This issue has come up before the court when the State of Kerala is suffering from torrential rain this month.
The State of Kerala argued that the water level should not cross the limit of 139 feet, which the court had ordered on the 24th of August, 2018, when the State was hit by floods.
The adjoining State of Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, submitted to the court that the level in the dam was 137.2 ft at 9 a.m. on the 25th of October.
Additional Advocate-General V. Krishnamurthy, while representing the State of Tamil Nadu, submitted that the officials of Tamil Nadu were interacting with those from Kerala on the ground. The Chief Minister of Kerala has also written to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu regarding this issue. “Mr. Krishnamurthy stated that CM of Kerala has only asked that they should be informed in advance before the opening of the gates,”
He also informed the court about the inflow and outflow into the reservoir, which was 2,220 and 2,200 cusecs, respectively.
As regards Kerala’s contention not to let the water level beyond 139 feet, he said the Supreme Court had in its Judgments in the year 2006 and 2014, respectively, has fixed the maximum water level to be capped at the height of 142 feet.
The court directed the officials of both the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala to interact responsibly in order to avert any danger to lives. The Supreme Court also made it clear that this was not an issue to play politics about.
- The Mullaperiyar is a 123-year-old dam, which is located on the confluence of the Periyar and Mullayar rivers in the Idukki district of Kerala.
- It is operated and maintained by the state of Tamil Nadu for meeting the drinking water and irrigation requirements.
- This dam was made to divert the waters of the west-flowing river Periyar to the eastward direction to fulfill the requirements of rain shadow and arid region in the state of Tamil Nadu.
- Periyar River is the longest river in Kerala with 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 from the Sivagiri hills of the Western Ghats and flows through Periyar National Park.
- The main tributaries of Periyar are Cheruthoni Muthirapuzha, Perinjankutti and Mullayar.
Water in the Indian Constitution
- The subject of Water has been kept under Entry 17 of the State List, which empowers the state to legislate upon the river.
- Under the Union List, Entry 56 empowers the Central government to develop and regulate inter-state rivers as well as river valleys.
- Article 262 of the Constitution of India empowers the Parliament, which may provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint in respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter-state river or river valley.
- Under Article 262, the Parliament has enacted the following legislation:
- River Board Act, 1956: This empowered the Central government to establish Boards for Interstate Rivers and river valleys in consultation with State Governments. However, no river board has been created to date.
- Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956: Under this act, the Centre government may form a tribunal after trying to resolve the dispute through consultations if a state government or governments approach the Centre for the constitution of a tribunal.