The Kerala government’s controversial order allowing Tamil Nadu to cut 15 trees downstream of Baby Dam at Mullaperiyar reservoir sent tempers soaring for the second consecutive day in the state Assembly with the opposition UDF questioning how the ministers can claim to be unaware of the order.
The order in question was issued by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden on November 5. Felling of trees would allow Tamil Nadu to strengthen the Baby Dam which Kerala is not in favour of since it wants a new dam to be built. The Kerala government was forced to freeze the order on Sunday in the wake of the huge political controversy.
As the Congress-led Opposition pointed out that the order was in violation of the state’s stand on the Mullaperiyar issue, the Pinarayi Vijayan government said would never accept the bureaucratic decision taken against the interests of the state.
Speaking in the Assembly on Tuesday, electricity minster V Krishnan Kutty said that the order was kept in abeyance as soon as it came to the notice of the government and that action will be taken after an enquiry into circumstances that led to the issuing of the order violating the government stand. He added that the government stand is that a new dam has to be built and the aim is “safety of Kerala and water to Tamil Nadu".
“An environmental impact study is necessary for environmental clearance for the new dam. We have already given Rs 95 lakh to a consultancy to conduct the study. The baseline data of two seasons has been collected and is underway for the third season. The consultancy has informed us that the draft report will be ready soon,” Kutty said.
Speaking to the media, Opposition leader VD Satheeshan said the order would weaken the state’s case in the Supreme Court. “If we are giving permission to the Tamil Nadu government to strengthen the Baby Dam, then we will lose our case in the Supreme Court miserably,” he said.
Explaining further, he said, “Tamil Nadu’s case is that they sought interim order for water level at 142 feet and their argument was if they are able to strengthen the Baby Dam, then they will raise the water level to 152 feet. Kerala’s case is that it is not safe and people are in danger. A new dam needs to be constructed there. We are ready to provide water to Tamil Nadu. Our slogan was ‘safety for Kerala, water for Tamil Nadu’.”
He said the government’s defence that ministers were not aware of the decisions taken by the bureaucrats was “unbelievable", and demanded that the order kept in abeyance be cancelled for good.