YB WEB DESK. Dated: 11/23/2021 12:46:06 PM

T K NANDANAN As the decrepit Mullaperiyar dam is waiting for its natural death(collapse), which may come anytime, controversy has erupted over the tenancy and lease terms. Legal experts and historians have expressed reservations and doubts over the 999-year-long lease agreement signed on October 29, 1886 between the British-ruled Madras Presidency and the State of Travancore. Strangely, a lease indenture for 999 years was made between the Maharaja of Travancore, VisakhamThirunal Varma and the British Secretary of State for India for Periyar irrigation works.But it may be seen that there are no lease and tenancy agreements anywhere in the world that hold for 999 years. P. Sujathan, a historian, who studied the comprehensive history of the Mullaperiyar dam, said, “The Mullaperiyar agreement is for 999 years and this itself is shrouded in mystery and secrecy. The then Maharaja is on record telling his Diwan that he was forced to sign the dotted line with his own blood.” Sujathanfurther said, “The signatory for Travancore was KKV Rama Aiyangarwho would have hoodwinked the Maharaja by tampering the figure 99 years with 999 years. You should understand thatAiyangar was from Madras and it was natural that his loyalty was more towards his native state.” The dam was built with a view to make the water flow eastward to irrigate the arid area of Madurai in Tamil Nadu. The fact that the dam and its catchment area entirely falling within the territory of Kerala and the water exclusively utilized by Tamil Nadu is a curious case of absurdity. But the Kerala State after coming into existence declared that the agreement was invalid and so the agreement was later renewed in 1970 when C. Achutha Menon was Kerala Chief Minister and the validity of this agreement too is under dispute between the States of Kerala and Tamil Nadu as per the power of the federal government of India. Mullaperiyar dam was built in 1895 on the Periyar river near the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border by the British Corps of Royal Engineers under the leadership of John Pennycuick, who was a British Army engineer and civil servant. Actual construction of the dam began in 1887, and so, its exact age is 134 years as of now. This long life of the dam is rare and unprecedented with inherent weakness and leaks following the tremors in 1994, and hence people need to be cautious and vigilant. It is impossible to believe that a building can endure the action of 134 years of weathering.It is also true that the dam is situated in a seismically active area. The structural stability analysis of the Mullaperiyar dam by the Department of Earthquake Engineering of the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkie, has concluded that the Mullaperiyar dam is likely to undergo damage in the event of an earthquake. Such damage may lead to failure of the dam. In the event of dam breaks, the entire water will flow down from a height of 881 meter above the sea level deluging the central Kerala. Tamil Nadu will be untouched by the great deluge. People are being haunted by the specter of deluge of the impending dam breach, and are forced to lead a life in constant fear. This must be stopped urgently. TheKerala government urgentlymust hold parleys with the Tamil Nadu for the decommissioning of the dam.


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