The Mullaperiyar conflict
Source:NIAS, Volume B4, Number 978-81-87663-91-1, Bangalore (2010)
T he Mullaperiyar project is an inter-state inter-basin scheme which diverts water from the upper reaches of the west flowing Periyar River in Kerala into the eastern plains of Vaigai River Basin in Tamil Nadu for irrigation after power generation. It is one of the earliest trans-basin projects in India and was commissioned in 1895 by the British in the then Travancore State by an agreement signed in 1886 which was ratified after independence by the respective states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The project situated in the territory of Kerala benefiting Tamil Nadu has been a source of conflict. The simmering tension took the form of a full-blown conflict between the two neighbouring states after leaks were detected in the Mullaperiyar dam following which the reservoir level was brought down to 136 ft from 152 ft in 1979. Over the years, the two states have been involved in a tussle over the issue of raising the water level back to its original height and related safety concerns. Implicit in these issues are other deeper disquiets that have protracted and aggravated the conflict. The State and Central governments, various scientific and sociopolitical institutions and the media have shaped the conflict and the resolution process during this tumultuous period.
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