Posted by Agnivo Niyogi
Water, water everywhere. Not a drop to share! As human civilization progresses, natural resources face the challenge of extinction. Geographical borders now decide the fate of bounties that should belong to the biosphere as a whole. Sizable majority of God’s own country fear extinction now, thanks to a century old dam which has developed cracks. So, why not rebuild and renovate the existing structure to save lives? Well, Mullaperiyar faces test of political waters.
Mullaperiyar Dam, constructed more than a century ago has been a center of debate for over two decades now. Although, the bigger beneficiary of this dam has always been the state of Tamil Nadu, complaints of insufficient water being released by its neighbour have surfaced before too. Built in Kerala, on the river Mullayar and its tributary Periyar, water is mostly diverted from this 136 feet dam eastwards to Tamil Nadu.
A Supreme Court order in 2006 instructed Govt of Kerala to raise the height of the dam to 142feet, which was overridden by the legislature by bringing in a law. Govt of Tamil Nadu challenged this in court and the matter is subjudice currently. The debate currently is not about the volume of water to be shared or the storage capacity of the dam. It is about safety of 3.5 million Keralites who live downstream of the dam site.
Govt of Tamil Nadu’s banning the film DAM999 clearly shows how jittery the state is on this issue. The Chief Minister’s claim “the dam is as good as new” met with uproar on social media platforms – reports of cracks developing in the dam, how water has been gushing out of those cracks and also pictures and videos showing the pitiable state of the dam site have been floating on wires for long.
Studies done by IIT Delhi, IIT Roorkee and IISc Bangalore have projected the vulnerability of the people of Kerala from the “hydrologically unsafe” dam. Tamil Nadu fought those claims with its own government engineers claiming the dam is safe and sound. Clearly, waters of Periyar have been polluted by politics.
Leaders, known for their knack of fishing in troubled waters have already began their job. While both state governments have been attending Delhi durbar to make the Central govt party to their cause, local politicians have already observed a day of Hartal for the cause. Ethnic politics have started too, brazenly demonstrated by ban on Tamil Nadu bound buses from Kerala, in several parts of TN. And while state MPs and MLAs are busy voicing their support to the cause of their state, national parties like BJP and their supporters have been accusing people of making a mountain out of molehill.
Amidst all these, Mullaperiyar was increasingly shaken by earthquakes in the last 22 months, rousing fear among people even more. That the ongoing “movement” was not to malign the state of Tamil Nadu or deny it of its share of water, is clearly demonstrated by the slogan “Water for Tamil Nadu, Safety for Kerala”. Why then is the Chief Minister of TN not willing to send out a message of conciliation and humanity to people on the other side of the border? After all, they are citizens of the same nation.
Or is it easy to sacrifice millions of lives for staying in power? Life be DAMned, God knows the answer.