Little response to shutdown over new Mullaperiyar dam

Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 18 (IANS) A statewide shutdown called to demand a new dam to replace the leaking structure at Mullaperiyar turned out to be a damp squib Wednesday.

Barring the Idukki district where the dam is located, normal life appeared the least affected, with vehicles plying and all establishments open.

The Mullaperiyar Action Committee (MAC) has been holding a sit-in at Chappathu near the dam site for the past five years demanding a new dam. But MAC believes the centre has been ignoring the demand for a new dam.

In Idukki, the opposition Left besides ruling front ally Kerala Congress (Mani) were supporting the shutdown.

For KC (Mani), a new dam appears to have become a prestige issue because it is very strong in districts like Idukki, Kottayam, parts of Ernakulam and Thrissur, which along with Alappuzha district would be the worst affected if the leaking Mullaperiyar dam gives way.

State Water Resources Minister P.J. Joseph who belongs to the party is also championing the cause of a new dam.

‘We had decided to suspend the protest for a month after an all party delegation met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with our demand for a new dam. Now that period is over and we have no other option but to go ahead with the campaign for a new dam,’ said Joseph who hails from Idukki district.

Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been at loggerheads over the Mullaperiyar dam, built under an 1886 pact between the then Maharaja of Travancore and the erstwhile British Raj.

While the dam is located in Kerala, its waters serve Tamil Nadu. Kerala is seeking a new dam and has offered to build and fund it but the latter does not agree and has now become an issue which has become a thorn for the Manmohan Singh government.