You invite, I will come: Chandy to Jaya on dam talks
‘Groundwork Already Done For Building New Structure’
Jaya Menon TNN
Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy on Saturday issued an appeal to his Tamil Nadu counterpart for an out-of-court settlement to the Mullaperiyar row that could clear decks for the construction of a new dam by securing TN’s interests.
He admitted that Kerala had already done the groundwork for a new dam, which it sees as the only solution. “We are ready for bilateral talks. We can have an understanding outside the courts and then submit a joint petition to the Supreme Court,” Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy said during an interaction with TN media representatives in the city.
Asked if TN was open to the idea of a negotiated settlement, Chandy said, “I had written twice to the TN chief minister. The reply was not very encouraging. And, there was no reply to the second letter.” But he was willing to reach out to chief minister J Jayalalithaa again, he said, adding in a lighter vein, “You invite me, I will come.”
Emphasizing that the prime concern for Kerala was as much the safety of its people as water was for TN, Chandy said a detailed project report for a new dam was ready and only needed TN’s consent for Kerala to proceed. “We are convinced that only a new dam can satisfy the concerns of the two states. A detailed project report for a new dam is ready and we are certain that we can go ahead it with the necessary clearances.” But Kerala, he said, would like to get the concurrence of Tamil Nadu before doing that. A site 366 metres from the present dam and “agreed upon by PWD engineers from Tamil Nadu during a meeting in 1979” had been identified. Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy on Saturday said the state would like to get Tamil Nadu’s consent before going ahead with the project to build a new dam to replace the existing one at Mullaperiyar.
“Legally speaking, there are no hurdles for us to go ahead with the project as long as we have the funds to do it and we are not dependent on Central government funding. But we don’t want to create any problems on the other side. So we would like to get Tamil Nadu’s consent and agreement before we go ahead. We want to continue our cordial relations with Tamil Nadu,” Chandy said during an interaction with media representatives from Tamil Nadu.
“It will cost us Rs 663 crore to build the new dam in place of the existing one at Mullaperiyar as per market rates in November 2011. The submerged area of the new dam will cover 25 hectares and total area would be about 50 hectares,” Chandy said. “Water (for TN) can be let out through the very same outlets used now.”
Wary about an outbreak of violence as that witnessed recently when rumours spread that Kerala had gone ahead and laid the foundation stone for a new dam, Chandy said, “Our prime concern is the safety of our people but neither do we want to strain our relations with Tamil Nadu. We would like their concurrence before going ahead with the new dam project.” While Tamil Nadu has said the existing dam was as good as new, for how long would that be, wondered Chandy.
While the Supreme Court verdict on the issue of the water level in the dam and safety would be binding on the state, it would not hesitate to opt for further legal remedies, he said.
“While every second is important for Kerala as far as safety is concerned, we understand that every day is important for Tamil Nadu regarding its water needs,” said Chandy, claiming there was nothing to stop Kerala from going ahead with a new dam project. On reports that mock drills had been held in villages in Idukki district, additional chief secretary K Jayakumar confirmed that some disaster management teams had taken care of it.
Replying to a barrage of queries about Tamil Nadu’s apprehensions, Chandy said, “We want to reach out to the people of Tamil Nadu regarding our intentions and about continuing to supply water to Tamil Nadu. In Kerala, we are all unanimous in our stand that we will continue to supply water to Tamil Nadu.”
Even as the construction of the new dam progresses, the old dam will continue to function.
“We realize that we cannot have a new dam overnight and we cannot decommission the old dam before the new one is completed,” he said.
The dam row had flared up in the wake of 27 tremors in July last year with four of them exceeding 3 on the Richter scale, said Chandy, dismissing speculation that the Congressled United Democratic Front government in Kerala had raked up the issue only with an eye on the Piravom bypoll.
“That is not correct. There are so many misunderstandings. We have no hidden agenda. Our aim is to safeguard the interests of Kerala and at the same time continue good relations between the two states,” he said.
Guesthouses for TN, AP pilgrims
Thiruvananthapuram: With lakhs of pilgrims particularly from the four southern states heading out to Sabarimala every year, the Kerala government has earmarked five acres for each state — Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, besides Kerala — for setting up guesthouses, information centres and other infrastructure facilities for pilgrims. Andhra Pradesh chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy would be travelling to Sabarimala to lay the foundation for a building.
“We are concerned about the safety of pilgrims coming here. There were some stray incidents of stone pelting on pilgrims. We took strong action against the culprits,” Kerala chief minister Oomen Chandy said. TNN
Publication: The Times Of India Chennai; Date: Jan 8, 2012; Section: Front Page; Page: 1
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