Published: Friday 15 February 2002

The raging row over raising of water level in the Mullaipperiyar dam remains unresolved with the Kerala state government locking horns with the Tamil Nadu (TN) and the Union government. At stake is the Periyar Tiger Reserve which faces inundation if the dam's water level is raised from 41.4 metres (m) to 46.3 m as demanded by the TN government. In response to a Supreme Court order, the Union government recently informed the apex court that it endorsed the recommendation of an expert committee that raising the dam's water level to 44.5 m "will not endanger the safety of the main dam".

Although the TN government is ruthlessly pressing for raising of the reservoir level at Mullapperiyar to 46.3 m (see Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 13, November 30, 2001), the Kerala government submitted that the expert committee's report was unreliable, unscientific and inaccurate. It contended that as the reservoir fell within the seismic area, raising the water level beyond 41.4m would make the dam unsafe and affect the Periyar sanctuary.

Meanwhile, a recent study titled 'Impact of raising of water level in Mullapperiyar reservoir' says that if the water level in the Mullapperiyar dam is raised, it would reduce the population of tigers and elephants in the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Many smaller mammals and wild boars, gaurs, sambars and otters would also be affected. The study concludes that raising the water level of the lake would lead to a drastic reduction in the wealth of flora and fauna. The study team, which included scientists from the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Centre for Water Resource Development and Management and Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology, pointed out that carnivorous animals use the lake fringes for hunting. The submergence of the lake and the changes resulting from it would force the herbivores to move, thereby creating an imbalance in the prey-predator chain.

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