Kerala floods: State govt cites sudden water release by TN as a reason for disaster

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government on Thursday cited Tamil Nadu’s failure to control release of water from the Mullaperiyar dam till the reservoir reached its full capacity as one of the reasons for the flash floods in the state while presenting its case about the disaster in the Supreme Court.

The flood is believed to have claimed 350 lives while property damage worth thousands of crores was also inflicted on to the southern state.

An affidavit filed by the chief secretary of the state, Tom Jose, read, “The sudden releases from the Mullaperiyar Dam, 3rd largest reservoir in the Periyar Basin, forced us (Kerala) to release more water from the Idukki reservoir, downstream of Mullaperiyar, which is one of the causes of this deluge.”

Even though Mullaperiyar dam is wholly situated in Kerala, it is being operated by the Tamil Nadu government. It is located in the upper reaches of the Western Ghats above the Idukki reservoir. The catchment area of the Idukki reservoir is 650 sq km and the Mullaperiyar reservoir has a catchment area of 624 sq km.

As per the affidavit, the state was managing the spate of water by controlling spill and letting a major portion of the flood waters escape to the sea by “implementing a strict operational control over the spill of the two largest reservoir systems of Idukki and Idamalayar in synchronization with eight small other reservoir systems in the Periyar basin.”

Kerala’s affidavit comes in response to a direction by the top court on August 17. The order came on a petition filed by residents of Kerala to maintain structural safety of the dam, which as per an earlier SC judgement is being overlooked by the three-member supervisory committee that was constituted on the directions of the top court in 2014.

The deluge faced by Kerala was unprecedented in its recent history and it has already surpassed the devastation caused by the 1924 floods, the affidavit said.

“It was now considered the most intense flood to have hit Kerala in the last 100 years as 13 of the 14 districts were affected and 774 of the total 1564 villages were inundated. Of its population of 3.48 crore, more than 54 lakh people i.e. one-sixth of the state’s total population was recently affected by the deluge,” read the affidavit filed by the Kerala government.