Daily Special Current Affairs Material for IAS (Pre) 2013 National Issues - Topic: "Two States and a Water Issue"

Daily Special Current Affairs Material for IAS (Pre) 2013

Chapter: National Issues

Topic: Two States and a Water Issue

Q. Give an account about the Mullaperiyar Dam and its Controversy?


  • This is a project involving the eastward diversion of the waters of a west-flowing river, which has been celebrated as a gigantic feat of 19th century engineering. It was a major intervention in nature of a kind that is no longer much in favour. The project was constructed and Periyar waters have been flowing to Tamil Nadu for over a hundred years.

  • Under the 1886 agreement between the former Madras Presidency and the princely State of Travancore, Travancore agreed to the diversion of Periyar waters to Madras Presidency, and to lease a piece of land (8000 acres) in its territory to Madras Presidency for building and operating the project designed for this purpose. The curious fact is that the lease was for 999 years.

  • In Kerala, there is an almost universal feeling (right or wrong) that the 1886 agreement was an unfair one imposed on a reluctant Travancore by a more powerful Madras Presidency with the prestige and power of the British government behind it; and that while Madras (now Tamil Nadu) benefited substantially from the agreement, Travancore (Kerala) got little more than a negligible lease-rent for the land leased to Madras. In 1970, an increase in the lease rent was negotiated by Kerala but there was no radical revision of the totality of the agreement.

  • The learned judges decided to deal with the matter themselves, and appointed an Empowered Committee to examine and report on it. The Empowered Committee includes eminent experts but their opinion, even if the Supreme Court accepts it, may not necessarily be the final word on the subject, particularly if a different opinion is given by other equally distinguished experts outside.

  • The dam in this case is 116 years old, and even with all the strengthening measures, one can hardly be wholly confident about its safety under all circumstances. The recent tremors in the area might have been minor but no one can guarantee that a stronger earthquake will not occur, or that if it does the dam will withstand it; or that if there is an exceptionally heavy flood the dam will be safe.

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