Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Precautionary Principle



In this post, I want to discuss about the ‘Precautionary Principle’, which is the basis of the New Dam offered by the State of Kerala. State of Kerala strongly defending our case for a New Dam before the Hon’ble Supreme Court and also before the Hon’ble Empowered Committee citing this principle, which advocates prevention is better than cure. As there is reasonable apprehensions about the imminent danger and the possibility of a dam failure of archaic Mullaperiyar dam, the State of Kerala should not take any chances with its people’s life, which it is duty bound to protect under the Constitution of this great nation.

The origin of the Precautionary Principle can be traced back to Germany in the 1970s with the Vorsogeprinzip. Translated as the ‘Foresight’ Principle, this broad principle is a philosophical approach to risk prevention by taking protective measures against specific environmental/safety hazards in order to avoid or reduce environmental/safety risks. This approach was subsequently adopted in various International agreements.

Precautionary Principle must be invoked:

·       Where the scientific evidence for safety is insufficient, inconclusive or uncertain.
·        Where preliminary scientific evaluation suggests that effects on the environment, health or safety may be unacceptable and/or inconsistent with the chosen level of protection; and precautionary principle may be applied without waiting for the reality and seriousness of those risks to become fully apparent.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Litigation History

This blog post detail with the latest litigation started during 1997-98 and end in a Supreme Court judgment allowed Tamil Nadu to store water up to 142ft in Mullaperiyar reservoir. In the earlier arbitration litigation in 1930-40, Travnacore won the arbitration proceedings, where Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer himself argued before the Arbitrators and Umpire.


WRIT PETITIONS BEFORE HIGH COURTS

During 1997-98, A.G. Sojan, Devassia Joseph, and Sajan Kolath & Anthr filed writ petitions before the High Court of Kerala to reject the request of Tamil Nadu Government to raise the water level in Mullaperiyar reservoir from 136 ft. R. Sundaram, a Contractor from Tamil Nadu also filed a writ petition in Kerala High Court to issue directions to facilitate to carry out his work in respect of Mullaperiyar Dam. Meanwhile, similar petitions were filed in Madras High Court by Dr. Subramoniam Swamy, R.K. Ramachandran, Periyar-Vaigai Single Crop Cultivating Agriculturist Society and A. Suresh filed writ petitions before High Court of Madras to raise the water level in Mullaperiyar reservoir up to 152 ft.  Dr. Subramoniam Swamy filed a transfer petition before the Supreme Court of India on 5th August 1998 citing that there is a possibility of conflicting orders being passed by the High Courts and hence requested that the entire cases may be transferred to Supreme Court.

TRANSFER PETITIONS TO SUPREME COURT

The issue was come up for hearing before Supreme Court on 13/12/1999. Supreme Court directed both States to meet and hold talks for the settlement of the issue and reported back to Court. Accordingly a Chief Minister level meeting was held between Kerala and Tamil Nadu on 5/04/2000 at Thiruvananthapuram, but no consensus was reached. The issue came up for hearing before Supreme Court on 28/04/2000. The Court directed the Union Minister for Water Resources, Government of India to convene a meeting of both Chief Ministers in order to explore the possibilities of sorting out the differences between two States within two months. Accordingly, a meeting was convened by Central Government with both State Governments on 19/05/2000 at New Delhi. Mean while, in 2001,  the Mullaperiyar Environmental Protection Forum filed a Writ Petition (Civil) No. 386 before the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India seeking the Lease Deed of 1886 and Supplemental Agreements of 1970 are null and void on various legal ground.

EXPERT COMMITTEE OF 2000

Consequent to this, Ministry of Water Resources constituted a seven member committee under the chairmanship of Member (D&R), CWC including one representative nominated by each State to study the issue related to Mullaperiyar on 14/06/2000. Kerala Government had a lot of apprehensions about the terms of reference of the Committee and the matter was taken up with the Union Government. At the insistence of the Supreme Court, Government of Kerala had nominated Sri. M.K. Parameswaran Nair, Retd. Member (Civil), KSEB as its representative. In 16/09/2000, the Supreme Court of India directed the Committee shall meet within four weeks and to submit their report within three weeks from the date of first meeting.

Accordingly the Committee headed by Dr. B.K. Mittal, Member (D&R), CWC inspected the Mullaperiyar dam on 10/10/2000 and had its first meeting on 10/11.10.2000. The Committee decided that subject to the review of PMF and after checking the designs of baby dam, if found within allowable limits, the reservoir water level can be raised to 145ft on a majority opinion. The nominee from Kerala signed the above minutes with his dissenting note strongly disagreeing with the above suggestion to increase of FRL from 136ft. The Committee finalised its report on March 2001 and submitted that to the Supreme Court. The Committee recommended on a majority opinion (except Kerala nominee) that the dam would be safe for raising the reservoir water level up to 142 feet.  It also recommended that the strengthening measures for the baby dam and earthen bund as suggested by CWC should be carried out at the earliest.

SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT OF 27TH FEBRUARY 2006

After prolonged arguments, Supreme Court of India (a three member bench headed by the Chief Justice of India) on 27/02/2006 permitted the water level in the reservoir to 142 feet relying on the findings of the Mittal Committee report (Judgement of 2006 can be had from here: http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/1649309/). The Court also directed to Government of Kerala not to obstruct in carrying out strengthening measures for baby dam and earthen bund, as suggested by the CWC.

While delivering the above Judgement, Supreme Court had also observed that:


  1. Section 108 of State Re-organisation Act 1956 which upheld the continuation of the pre-constitutional agreements pertaining to water and electric power are constitutionally valid.
  2. The rising of FRL in Mullaperiyar is not an inter state water dispute and hence Supreme Court is competent hear the case. The barring of Supreme Court in the case of inter state water issues as per Article 262 read with Section 11 of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956 is not applicable in this case.
  3. It was also held that the Supreme Court is not barred to hear Mullaperiyar issue since it does not attract provisions of Article 363. Article 363 bars Supreme Court to hear any dispute arising out of any provision of an agreement entered into or executed before the commencement of the Constitution. Supreme Court held that the Article 363 was provided to make certain class of agreements non-justiciable and to prevent the Indian Rulers from resiling from such agreements because that would have affected the integrity of India.
  4. It also held that the above dispute is not liable to arbitration since Mullaperiyar dispute because the arbitration clause in the Lease Deed permits arbitration only about the rights, duties and obligations or interpretation of any part of the agreement. The Court observed that the present issue is not such an issue.
  5. It was held that the raising of water level of the reservoir from 136 ft to 142 ft could result not result in degradation of environment and will not attract provisions of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. Instead it was held that the raising of water level will increase the carrying capacity of the wild life and will improve the environment.

AMENDMENT ACT OF 2006

Meanwhile, Kerala Legislature amended the Kerala Irrigation and Water (Conservation) Act during March 2006. In the amended act, along with other 22 dams, Mullaperiyar dam was designated as a Scheduled dam and its FRL was restricted to 136ft. Also, the powers of the Dam Safety Authority has been enhanced. Amended Act was published in the official gazette on 18/03/2006.

ORIGINAL SUIT 3 OF 2006

Subsequent to this, Tamil Nadu filed an Original Suit in the Hon’ble Supreme Court (OS No. 3 of 2006) on 31st March 2006 against the provisions of the amended act in its application to the Mullaperiyar. Their main contention was that as per Section 108 of State Reorganization Act, 1956 Kerala State Legislature is not at all competent to impose restrictions over Mullaperiyar dam and also prayed to declare the said act unconstitutional.

DISCUSSIONS BETWEEN THE STATES

When the case came for hearing on 25th September 2006, the Hon. Supreme Court directed that “the two state governments, independently or with the intervention of Union of India may try to sort out, if possible, the dispute.”

Accordingly, the two Chief Ministers held talks on 29th November 2006 at New Delhi in the presence of Union Minister of Water Resources. In continuation of the above meeting, one more meeting was convened by the Union Minister for Water Resources between the Water Resources Ministers of both States on 18th December 2006 at New Delhi. In the above meetings, Government of Kerala offered a new dam, which would ensure safety to the people of Kerala as well as continued supply of water to Tamil Nadu as permanent solution to this dispute. But Government of Tamil Nadu was not ready to accept the above solution and hence the discussions ended in a deadlock.

FRAMING OF ISSUES

After hearing both parties, the Hon’ble Supreme Court framed issues on the Original Suit on 13th  December 2007. The eleven issues framed by the Court are as following:

1.     Whether the suit is maintainable under Article 131 of the Constitution of India?
2.     (a) Whether the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act 2006 is unconstitutional and ultra vires, in its application to and effect on the Mullai Periyar Dam?
        (b) Whether plaintiff is entitled to a permanent injunction restraining the first defendant from applying and enforcing the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2006 with reference to Mullai Periyar Dam?
3.     Whether the rights of the plaintiff, crystalised in the Judgment dated 27.02.2006 passed by this Court in WP(C) NO.386/2001 can be nullified by a legislation made by the Kerala State Legislature?
4.     (a) Whether the judgment dated 27.2.2006 of this Court in WP(C) No.286/2001 operates as res judicata, in respect of all or any of the defences set up by the first defendant in its written statement?
(b) Whether the pleas relating to validity and binding nature of the deed dated 29.10.1886, the nature of Periyar River, structural safely of Mullai Periyar Dam etc. raised by the first defendant in its defence, are finally decided by the judgment of this Court dated 27.2.2006 in WP(C) No.386/2001, and consequently first defendant is barred from raising or reagitating those issues and pleas in this suit, by the principle of res judicata and constructive res judicata?                                               
5.     Whether the suit based on a legal right claimed under the lease deed executed between the Government of the Maharaja of Travancore and the Secretary of State for India on 29.10.1886, is barred by the proviso to Article 131 of the Constitution of India?
6.     Whether the first defendant is estopped from raising the plea that the deed dated 29.10.1886 has lapsed, in view of subsequent conduct of the first defendant and execution of the supplemental agreements dated 29.05.1970 ratifying the various provisions of the original Deed dated 29.10.1886?
7.     Whether the lease deed executed between the Government of the Maharaja of Travancore and Secretary of State for India on 29.10.1886 is valid, binding on first defendant and enforceable by plaintiff against the first defendant?
8.     Whether the first defendant is estopped from contending that Periyar River is not an inter-State river?
9.     Whether the offer of the first defendant, to construct a new dam across River Periyar in the downstream region of Mullai Periyar Dam would meet the ends of justice and requirements of plaintiff?
10.   Whether the first defendant can obstruct the plaintiff from increasing the water level of Mullai Periyar Dam to 142 ft. and from carrying out repair works as per the judgment dated 27.2.2006 of this Court in WP(C) No.386/2001?
11.   To what relief is the plaintiff entitled to?”

EVIDENCE BEFORE JUSTICE ANIL DEV COMMISSION

Subsequent to this both parties filed the documents by May 2008. State of Tamil Nadu filed one affidavit of Sri. R. Subramanian, Vice-Chairman of Cauvery Technical Cell. While State of Kerala filed five affidavits of the following witnesses.

1.      Sri. V. K. Mahanudevan, Superintending Engineer, Siruvani Project Circle, Palakkad.
2.      Dr. A. K. Gosain, Professor, Civil Engineering Department, IIT, Delhi
3.      Sri. K. Jayakumar, Additional Chief Secretary, Water Resources Department, Government of Kerala.
4.      Sri. M. K. Parameswaran Nair, Chairman, Mullaperiyar Special Cell
5.      Dr. Dhrubajyothi Gosh, Chairman, National Expert Committee for Assessment of the Ecological Impact of Water Level increase in Mullaperiyar Dam.

On 21st July 2008, the court appointed Hon’ble Justice Anil Dev Singh, Retired Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court as the Commission for taking evidence in the case. The cross examination of the witnesses was started on 13th August 2008 and was completed on 2ndSeptember 2008.

 HEARING BEFORE DIVISION BENCH OF SUPREME COURT

The case was listed for hearing before the three bench panel headed Hon’ble Justice Arijit Pasayath on 10th February 2008 to 12th February 2008. Senior Counsel Harish Salve, who appeared for the State of Kerala, apprised the Court about the Probable Maximum Flood studies conducted by the IIT, Delhi and the possible threat to the Mullaperiyar Dam. In the above context, the Hon’ble Court wanted to know the opinion of the two States for referring the IIT report for assessment by an independent agency. Even though State of Tamil Nadu agreed for the above suggestion during the hearing, the very next day, they informed the Court that “they were not agreeable to the suggestion. They would take a ruling from this court instead of the matter going before another Committee.” The Court listed the matter for further hearing on 31st March 2008. It was informed by the Counsels for the parties that the hearing of the case would at least take 7 to 8 days to finish. As the Hon’ble Justice Arijit Pasayath was retiring on May 2008, the case was adjourned till a new bench is constituted.

The new Bench headed by Hon’ble Justice D.K. Jain (with Hon’ble Justice Mukundakam Sharma and Hon’ble Justice R.M. Lodha) heard the case on 21st, 22nd and 28th October 2009 and 4th and 5th November 2009.

After hearing both parties Counsels at length, the Hon’ble Court ordered that:

“…We are of the view that for deciding some of the issues framed in the suit, it would be necessary to decide certain substantial questions of law involving interpretation of the Constitution, in particular :

         (i) Articles 3 and 4 read with Article 246 of the Constitution;

          (ii) Article 131 read with Article 32 of the Constitution;

          (iii) Proviso to Article 131 read with Articles 295 and 363 of the Constitution and the effect of the Constitution (26th Amendment) Act, 1971; and

          (iv) The effect of decision of this Court in Mullaperiyar Environmental Protection Forum vs. Union of India & Ors., (2006) 3 SCC 643 in the context of aforereferred constitutional provisions..

As   the   case   involves    the   resolution    of  the  said questions, the suit may be placed before the Hon'ble Chief Justice of India for necessary directions for placing it before a Constitution Bench.”

HEARING BEFORE CONSTITUTION BENCH OF SUPREME COURT

The case was listed before the Constitution Bench headed by Hon’ble Justice D.K. Jain (with with Hon’ble Justice Mukundakam Sharma, Hon’ble Justice R.M. Lodha, Hon’ble Justice B. Sudarsan Reddy and Hon’ble Justice Deepak Varma) on 20th January 2010. The case was heard on 20th, 21st, 27th and 28th January 2010 and 2nd, 4th, 16th, 17th and 18th February 2010.

After hearing both the parties, the Hon’ble Court ordered that:

“…We have heard Mr. K. Parasaran, learned Senior Counsel for State of Tamil Nadu, and Mr. Harish N. Salve, learned Senior Counsel for State of Kerala, at some length. Regard being had to the nature of controversy, we are of the opinion that before we proceed further in this case, it would be appropriate to call for a report from an Empowered Committee on all the issues that arise in relation to the Mullai Periyar Dam and the concerns raised by both the States in relation thereto.

 It may be noticed that apart from the legal and constitutional issues, inter alia, the real grievance that concerns the State of Tamil Nadu is of not being able to increase reservoir level of Mullai Periyar Dam to 142 feet. The   concern of      the State of Kerala, on the other hand, appears to be relating to the safety of the Dam. While the State of Tamil Nadu had submitted  that in the present suit they seek invalidation of the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2006 that seeks to override the judgment of this Court in the previous case, the State of Kerala had submitted, amongst other things, that there are genuine concerns as to the safety of Mullai Periyar Dam, and that they have also offered to build a New Dam at their cost which will ensure that there is no fall in the water drawals of the State of Tamil Nadu, and that their law is valid.

Before we consider the matter further, we direct as under:

(1)             The Central Government shall, within four weeks from today,   set   up,   by   notification   in   the   Official Gazette, an Empowered Committee comprising of Hon'ble Dr. A.S. Anand, former Chief Justice of India, as the Chairman;
(2)             The Empowered Committee shall consist of five members, including the Chairman. The other four members shall be –
(a)  One member to be nominated by the State of Tamil Nadu in consultation with the Chairman.
         (b) One member to be nominated by the State of Kerala in consultation with the Chairman.
          (c) Two renowned technical experts not connected with the dispute to be nominated by the Central Government in consultation with the Chairman.

(3) The Central Government shall set up the Committee and also appoint a Member Secretary, in consultation with the Chairman, within two weeks from today.

(4) The    Central    Government   shall    make    available   the necessary infrastructure to facilitate the working of     the   Committee,   and   shall    bear    all   expenses thereof, including those relating to remuneration of the members of the Committee.

(5) We would request the Committee to hear parties to the suit on all issues that will be raised before  them, without being limited to the issues that have been raised before us, and furnish a report, as far as possible, within  six months from their constitution.

 The Committee shall frame its own procedure and issue appropriate directions as to the hearings as well as venue of its sittings. The Registry shall make a set of the record of this case, and transmit it to the Committee for its   assistance.  The Committee is free to receive such further evidence as it considers appropriate.

Needless to clarify that the legal and constitutional issues, including the validity of the amendment Act, 2006 are matters that would be considered by us.”

Even though State of Tamil Nadu filed an IA to recall the above order, the Hon’ble Court dismissed the above application on 29th March 2010 and directed the Union of India to form the Empowered Committee before 30th April 2010.

EMPOWERED COMMITTEE

Central Government constituted an Empowered Committee, which was published in the official gazettet on 30th April 2010. The Empowered Committee consists of Hon’ble Justice Dr. A.S. Anand, Former Chief Justice of India, Hon’ble Justice K.T. Thomas, Former Supreme Court Justice (Kerala Nominee), Hon’ble Justice A.R. Lakshmanan, Former Supreme Court Justice (Tamil Nadu Nominee), Dr. C.D. Thattee, Former Union Water Resources Secretary and Chairman, CWC (Govt. of India Nominee) and D.K. Mehta, Former Chief Engineer, CWC (Govt. of India Nominee).

The Empowered Committee had their first meeting on 14th June 2010 at New Delhi. After deliberations, the Committee issued notices through dailies inviting Memorandum containing views/suggestions from parties of OS No. 3 of 2006.

The Empowered Committee in its next sitting on 23rd August 2010, permitted both States, to submit additional documents and list of witnesses they wanted to examine within 15 days. They also instructed both parties to submit a Brief Submission to their respective cases not more than 3 pages. Accordingly State of Kerala filed additional documents including the Structural Stability Analysis of Mullaperiyar Dam carried out by IIT, Roorkee and also the application for producing three witnesses viz. Dr. D.K. Paul, Professor, Earthquake Engg. Dept, IIT, Roorkee Dr. M.L. Sharma, Professor, Earthquake Engg. Dept, IIT, Roorkee and Dr. A. Komalavalli Amma, Former Chief Engineer, Irrigation Department, Kerala.

ISSUES SETTLED BY THE EMPOWERD COMMITTEE

The Empowered Committee again met on 15th October 2010. The Committee has settled the following issues for their consideration.

1.              Which strengthening measures as suggested by CWC have already been carried out by the State of Tamil Nadu for the dam, each of the two: main and the baby dam components, to ensure its safety and stability based on the investigations so far carried out?

2.     Which remaining measures from amongst those suggested by CWC are yet to be carried out by the State of Tamil Nadu for the safety and stability of the Dam and when they be undertaken and completed?

3.     Has the State of Kerala complied with the suggestions and recommendations made by the CWC about strengthening the Dam and taken appropriate steps in that behalf?

4.     Should the reservoir level be raised from 136 ft? If yes, what further measures for strengthening the existing dam, do the two parties envisage, to allow the raising of water level from 136 ft to 142 ft and beyond?

5.       Since the State of Kerala for safety and stability concerns of the existing dam and downstream population in the event of the dam failure and stability, wants to build a new dam at its own expense, the Committee seeks answers from the two parties to the following questions about the fall out of such proposal.

a) How much time will the State of Kerala take to carry out survey, feasibility studies, preparation of DPR, tying of finances, obtain clearance and construction for the new dam?
b) Who would have control of the New Dam and be responsible for its operation and maintenance, ie, the State of Tamil Nadu or the State of Kerala?
c) Whether and how the existing dam would continue to supply water to the State of Tamil Nadu during the construction of the new dam and till it becomes functional.
d) Would the construction of the new dam in any way affect the supply of water for use by the State of Tamil Nadu, during or after its construction?

While responding to these issues, State of Kerala framed six additional issues for consideration of the Empowered Committee:

1.      What are the needs of Tamil Nadu in the waters in the existing Mullaperiyar Dam? Does State of Tamil Nadu suffer any injury, if the storage level of the existing Mullaperiyar Dam is not raised beyond RL 136ft?
2.      Whether the MWL of the Mullaperiyar Dam goes beyond RL 155ft submerging the lands which are not a part of the Lease Deed of 1886? If so, to what extent?
3.      Whether increase of storages of the Mullaperiyar Dam beyond RL 136ft would prejudicially affect the environment, ecology and biodiversity?
4.      Whether the downstream Idukki Dams would collapse if the Mullaperiyar Dam breaks? What will be the consequent loss of lives and properties due to the collapse of Mullaperiyar dam to both the States?
5.      What benefits would accrue to both the States of Kerala and Tamil Nadu from the diversion of Periyar Waters under the alleged Lease Deed of 1886 and Supplemental Agreements of 1970?
6.      Whether Periyar River is an interstate river?

The Empowered Committee carried out various tests and studies through CWC, CWPRS, CSMRS and some private institutions. Kerala’s demand to cross examine Dr. D.K. Paul and Dr. M.L. Sharma, Professors of IIT, Roorkee, who conducted the seismic safety of Mullaperiyar Dam is summarily rejected by the Empowered Committee. Even though State of Kerala demanded that the investigations/tests/study reports relied by them must be disclosed to State of Kerala and must give an opportunity to hear them on the veracity of the above reports, Empowered Committee rejected the above request.

The Empowered Committee filed its Report before the Hon’ble Supreme Court in April 2012.  In their Report they held that based on the tests, investigations and studies conducted by them that the Old Mullaperiyar Dam is hydrologically, seismically and structurally safe for holding water upto 142 ft.

After holding that, the Old Mullaperiyar Dam is safe, the EC, in Chapter VIII under the heading “Way Forward Towards An Amicable Solution” has suggested construction of new dam as the ‘First Alternative.’ The observations of EC in this regard are extracted below:

“1.     That the SoK may construct a new dam, at its own expense to serve its own perceptions, if techno-economically cleared by the Planning Commission and cleared by the MoEF in accordance of their regulations. The construction of the new dam, giving due margin for inflation etc may cost of the exchequer more than Rupees One Thousand Crores. The statutory clearences, fixing of a construction agency, preliminary works, the actual construction and decommissioning with demolishing of existing dam is likely to take 8 to 10 years. The existing dam shall not be dismantled, demolished or decommissioned till the new dam construction is completed and it becomes operational. Till such time, the rights of the SoTN in the existing dam to all waters of Mullaperiyar Dam arising out of the lease deed of 1886 and the Agreements of 1970, shall be fully honoured.

2.      However, the operation of the new dam would commence only after:

2(a) A fresh MOU is executed between the SoK and the SoTN

2(b) That to control, manage, operate, maintain and regulate the waters of the new dam, an independent committee/Board, to be chaired by a representative of the Union of India, with representatives of the SoK and the SoTN as its members, is put in place;

2(c) That the terms of rent/levies etc payable by the SoTN to the SoK are settled and the power generation rights of the two states are settled beforehand;

2(d) That before construction of the new dam and till its commissioning, the existing dam will be strengthened by the measures suggested by the CWC, including Dam Safety requirements as already voiced, which still remain to be carried out.

2(e) That the SoTN will be entitled to all its existing rights including all water levels under the Lease Deed of 1886 and Agreement of 1970.

2(f) That the decommissioning or demolition of the existing dam would be subject to the conditions 2(a) to 2(e) being met by the two Party States.

2(g) The Empowered Committee had made the suggestion to the two States during the hearing on 2nd January 2012. Learned counsel for the parties had sought time to consult the States and file their responses. Counsel for the parties later gave their responses in general terms, but there has been no direct response or opposition to the alternatives suggested.”

After the Empowered Committee submitted their report to the Supreme Court, the parties were supplied the Report by the Hon’ble Court on 4th May 2012. Subsequent to this State of Kerala approached the Supreme Court citing that the study reports relied by EC is not supplied to them and they need to study them to respond the EC Report. Hon’ble Court agreed with Kerala’s prayer and directed on 23rd July 2012, that the Registry must make arrangements to supply the copies of the above reports (40 Nos.) to both States.

Finally, the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Hon’ble Justice R.M. Lodha (with Hon’ble Justices H.L. Duttu, Chandramauli Kr. Prasad, Madan B. Lokur and M.K. Eqbal) started hearing on Mullaperiyar case on 23rd July 2013. The Bench heard State of Tamil Nadu for 4 and half days and heard State of Kerala for 5 and half days. The hearing was over on 21st August 2013 and the judgment was reserved.



Mullaperiyar Dam - Technical Details



River Periyar originates from the Western Ghats in ‘Sundara Malai’ in the Sivagiri group of hills at an elevation of about 1830m above MSL. From its origin, it traverses through an immense cliff of rocks in a northerly direction receiving several rivulets in its course. About 48 Km downstream, the Mullayar joins the main River at an elevation of 845m above MSL and the River then flows westwards. About 11 Km downstream of the above confluence, the river passes through a narrow gorge. A dam was constructed at this gorge to intercept the flow and it got christened as ‘Mullaperiyar dam’, which received the above title from the rivers Mullayar and Periyar. The dam have a catchment area of 624 square kilometres, which lies completely inside Kerala territory.






The Mullaperiyar dam is having a length of 1200 feet and a height of 155 feet from the river bed and the height from the deepest foundation is 176ft. The front and rear faces of the dam are of uncoursed rubble masonry in lime, surki and sand mortar. The hearting is of lime surkhi concrete with 3.125 parts of stone and 1 part of mortar.  The proportion of lime surkhi mortar is 2 parts of lime, 1 part of surkhi and 3 parts of sand.The central core constructed with lime surkhi concrete occupies about 60% of the total volume of the dam. As part of the strengthening measures suggested an RCC capping was added to the top of the dam. Also a 10 m concrete backing was provided to the downstream side, but the joint between the old dam and the new dam remain ungrouted even though shear keys were provided.




Supplemental Agreements of 1970


Agreement Amending the Periyar Lease Deed of 1886
dated 29th May 1970

This Agreement is executed on this the twenty ninth day of May One thousand nine hundred and seventy BETWEEN the Governor of Kerala (hereinafter referred to as 'the Government of Kerala' which expression shall, where the context so admits, include his successors in office and assigns) of the one part and the Governor of Tamil Nadu (hereinafter referred to as 'the Government of Tamil Nadu' which expression shall, where the context so admits, include his successors in Office and assigns) of the other part.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

PERIYAR LEASE DEED - 1886

This is the first page of the original Lease Deed of 1886. You can see the seal of Registrar Office of the Travancore Palace on the left margin.


LEASE OF LANDS
IN TRAVANCORE FOR THE PURPOSE OF THE PERIAUR PROJECT


INDENTURE made between the SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA and the MAHARAJA OF TRAVANCORE in respect of the lease of certain territory in the Travancore State in connection with the PERIYAR IRRIGATION PROJECT -1886.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Seismic Threat to Mullaperiyar Dam

Within a span of 2 days, two tremors of mild intensity on 5/11/10 (M2.0) and 6/11/2010 (M2.9) occurred in the 50KM range of Mullaperiyar Dam suddenly caused great anxiety in the minds of people, earthquake scientists and dam engineers. Even though, these earthquakes are minor in nature, the above earthquakes are seen as indication of the increased seismicity of the region surrounding Mullaperiyar Dam, which was once thought completely dormant. These warning signals by nature must taken very seriously, even though the present tremors are not able to create any significant damage to the dam due to its low intensity and large distance from the Mullaperiyar Dam.


Upstream face of Mullaperiyar Dam before the recent repairs


The above tremors are coincident with the cosmetic beautification done by Tamil Nadu authorities to the grandma Mullaperiyar Dam to conceal its chronic ailments from the naked eyes. But the ailments of Mullaperiyar Dam are inherent and deep rooted. This dam was constructed during 1886-1895, when the dam engineering was at infancy. The dam is a composite structure with rubble masonry in lime surkhi mortar as facing on upstream and downstream and a lime surkhi concrete inner core. Later in 1980s, a concrete backing of 10 M width was added to the downstream of the old dam.

Arguments by Tamil Nadu and Counter Arguments




1. ARGUMENT: 37 dams exits in India, which are more than 100 years old and still in service and hence it is not prudent to conclude that Mullaperiyar is unsafe based only citing the age of the structure.

COUNTER ARGUMENT: It is true that there are more than 37 dams exists in India which are more than 100 years old (Source: National Register of Large Dams, 2002). But a close look into the above data shows that out of the above 37 dams, 30 dams are of earthen dams having around 20 m height and more over having only an average gross storage capacity of less than 1 TMC! Hence these earthen dams are only can be qualified to be as ‘earthen bunds’ and does not pose much threat. 

If we consider the remaining seven masonry gravity dams, the Mullaperiyar dam surpasses all others with its height of 53.64m and its huge storage capacity of 15.66 TMC. The second one on the above list, Khadakwasla dam, which had already overtopped in 1961 due to the failure of the Panchet dam in the upstream (Maharastra - Pune District).  The third one on the list is having a height of only 16.77m. Hence such comparisons have no meaning.

Mullaperiyar dam is a composite gravity dam which lost of much of its strength due to continuous leaching of lime from its core. This dam is situated in an active fault zone, which makes the dam vulnerable to failure in an earthquake of moderate intensity with an epicenter close to the dam. Also the high hazard this dam poses a direct threat to the lives and property of 35 lakhs people living downstream and also a threat to the mega storage Idukki reservoir. Hence Mullaperiyar dam has no parallels and considering its age, deterioration and high hazard nature, must be decommissioned and a new dam must be built.