The Supreme Court today rapped the state governments of Kerala and Tamil Nadu over lack of coordination days after Kerala saw heavy rain and flooding in many parts, leading to more than 20 deaths. The top court was hearing a petition that raised concern over the water level in Mullaperiyar Dam, which has been at the centre of dispute between the two states for several years.
"We direct all the parties to consult each other in coordination with (the) state governments. Take a call on the water-level. Do it with immediacy. It's a very serious issue. It's a matter of people's lives and property," the court said.
While the dam is located in Kerala, it is operated from Tamil Nadu.
"If the parties do their job, we don't have to enter this issue. Tell us what should be the maximum level that is to be maintained and till when it should be maintained," it added. A two-judge bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and CT Ravikumar also asked the central government to "understand the anxiousness" of Kerala, and return with a response with urgency.
Due to heavy rain in Kerala, water-levels in the dam have risen, the state government today told the top court. "People's lives are in danger... (the) matter needs serious consideration. The Supreme Court judgement during the 2018 flood had said that dam height to be maintained at 139 feet. But there is immediate need to raise it higher. If that is not done, it will cause harm to people in the lower stream," it underlined.
On Sunday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had written to Tamil Nadu counterpart MK Stalin to ensure that maximum quantity of water is drawn from Mullaperiyar dam. "With the current inflow, it is feared that the reservoir level may reach 142 feet once the torrential rain intensifies. Hence, there would arise an urgent need for the gradual release of water from Mullaperiyar dam through the tunnel to Tamil Nadu," he said.
Today, Tamil Nadu told the court that it has been told by Kerala to inform when shutters are opened. "We will speak to other stakeholders and get back on the issue," it said. The matter will be heard again on Wednesday.
In the past, the control and safety of the dam, and the validity and fairness of the lease agreement of the Mullaperiyar Dam have led to dispute between Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Kerala has accused Tamil Nadu government of "sudden releases" of water several times in the past.