National Control on Dam Reservoir Levels: Ruling/Enactment

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Shutters of 34 dams already full to brim fully opening simultaneously into rain-flooded rivers - often many a dam into the same river one on the heels of another - has taken hundreds of lives, damaged property worth 50,000 crores and caused widespread misery in Kerala.

it was no less than a nightmare when I had to vacate my house at midnight on 16/8 with my ailing wife, sisters and grandchildren as water from the Perar (Bharathappuzha) on the banks of which I have lived for 79 years entered my compound for the first time ever; the water level kept rising like a ball bouncing! This river has never behaved this way before - rising if at all only gently, minimally and tacitly.

If the dams, instead of having been filled to maximum capacity, were kept at least ten percent vacant they together could have absorbed almost all rain that fell all of a sudden, held all of it to be released in better weather and in controlled conditions later.

Apparently there is no comprehensive and effective regulation concerning the management of dams or no single authority to do it. Almost all of recent floods in the country, including those in Surat and Bihar, were caused by unscientific dam management.

It is high time we learn how to do it right; we may emulate the example of developed countries limiting dam levels to 85 percent of total capacity so that  dams can also serve as effective flood control devices.

it will be wiser on another count too if dams sre kept less than full reducing vulnerability to seismic activity.

There are mud dams, mortar dams and dams more than a century old. In any case there has been no seismic testing of the rock base. Kerala is a narrow strip of land sloping steadily to the sea. Volcanic activity of Western Ghats created it over millions of years. Layers of lava sandwiched the vegetation growing during vast time spans in between. The dams and their reservoirs are ‘unnatural’ loads. If there is a tremor or if the stuffing of the sandwich is moistened and loses its frictional hold there will be the greatest landslide man has ever known! (Dwaraka now lies immersed in the sea not because the ocean swallowed it; it slipped down and under!)

The dams have again been filled almost to full capacity and the Retreating Monsoon is at Kerala’s doorstep!

An adjoining State - Tamilnadu - has made it again known that they plan to fill the more-than-centuries-old surky dam to its brim. This major dam is on top of the Idukki dam, the largest in Sourh-East Asia with a storage area comprising more than 600 square kilometers and on the same river that sports yet another major dam a little further down!

if anything happens to Mullaperiyar dam the other two downstream are sitting ducks and one-third of Kerala - people, livestock, vegetation and all - will get washed down into the Arabian Sea.

Under the circumstances, let’s petition the Honorable PM of India and also the Honorable Chief Justice to promulgate an ordinance or verdict as the case may be stipulating that no dam in the nation, small or big, irrigational or hydroelectrical, should be filled more than 90 percent of total capacity at any time of the year.

Comprehensive enactment to this effect in particular and laying down norms for the general management of dams by technically competent people so as to assure safety and best use of dams will be most welcome as follow-up.

Let’s invite their kind attention to the fact that if this precautionary regulation is brought into effect forthwith generations will certainly remember them as great saviours! 

C Radhakrishan 

Writer, President of the Samastha Kerala Sahitya Parishat

 



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