Thiruvananthapuram : Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan Monday said that a new dam would be built at Mullaperiyar, the focal point of a dispute between the state and Tamil Nadu that is before the Supreme Court.
"The case is coming up for hearing tomorrow in the Supreme Court and steps for building a new dam would be taken accordingly," Achuthanandan told the assembly.
Officials say the 111-year-old Mullaperiyar dam on the Periyar river in Idukki district, 240 km from here on border with Tamil Nadu, is old and weak. The heavy monsoon rains in Kerala last week led to the water level inside the dam crossing the danger level of 135 feet, threatening floods in nearby villages.
At a recent all-party meeting, legislators agreed that a new dam is the only way to quell the fears of the villagers in the vicinity.
Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been at loggerheads over the dam built under an agreement signed in 1886 between the then maharaja of Travancore and the British administration. It granted the then Madras Presidency the right to construct and maintain the dam and divert the water to irrigate arid lands in the Madurai region.
Thus, while the dam is located in Kerala, it serves Tamil Nadu. In recent years, Tamil Nadu has demanded that the storage capacity of the dam be raised from 136 feet to 142 feet to meet the increasing demand of water for irrigation.
Kerala, however, says it would not be safe to do so as the structure is more than a century old.
After Tamil Nadu secured a Supreme Court order permitting the water level to be raised from 136 feet to 142 feet, the Kerala government responded with an amendment to a bill passed earlier saying the water level must not be raised under any circumstance.
Several rounds of discussions between the two governments have failed to yield any positive result.