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Idukki Dam: Thousands of Kerala Residents on Verge of Losing Homes as Water Level Rises

File photo of Kerala's Idukki dam.

File photo of Kerala's Idukki dam.

Once Kerala's Idukki dam is opened, thousands of people will be affected by the swelling waters between Thadyambad, Karimban and Injivarakkuth areas near Cheruthoni that lie on the banks of the Cheruthoni River.

New Delhi: One of the highest arch dams in the continent, Kerala's Idukki dam, is set to reopen after 26 years due to rising water levels, forcing nearly thousands of residents to evacuate from the downstream areas.

According to a report in The New Indian Express, the water level was 2,394.36 feet on Sunday. Once the dam is opened, thousands of people will be affected by the swelling waters between Thadyambad, Karimban and Injivarakkuth areas near Cheruthoni that lie on the banks of the Cheruthoni River, through which the released water from the dam will flow.

The emergency decision was taken to regulate the rising water levels in the Periyar, a result of the record high rains Kerala has received this monsoon. Idukki received 192.3 cm of rainfall this year, which is 49% more than what the hilly district received the previous year.

The water will be released by opening the sluice gates of the Cheruthoni dam, built on the Cheruthoni river, a tributary of the Periyar.

A high-level meeting was conducted with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan where it was decided that the dam would be opened when the water levels reach 2400 feet, a report in The News Minute stated.

"We decided that we would open the shutters in a trial run even before this. If the water reaches 2400 feet, we would be forced to open the shutters to reduce the levels. So instead of risking this, we will open the shutters in a controlled manner before the level reaches 2,400 so that the pressure is less on us," the report quoted Idukki Collector Jeevan Babu as saying.

Even as the district administration has identified centres to be opened as temporary shelters, it will be a difficult task considering the large number of people to be rehabilitated. The New Indian Express report mentions that a majority of the residents in the areas are poor people. Hence, they will not be able to afford a new house, and will be forced to spend sleepless nights at the refugee camps.

Fifty-two-year-old Sulaikha, of Kandathinkarayil house, Cheruthoni, told Express she will have to shift her two daughters to the relief camp once the dam shutters are opened. Sulaikha, who is a widow, has been living here for the past 30 years. She said if the authorities are releasing water all at once, she would lose everything which she has saved through her lifetime.

“When the shutters of the dam were opened last in 1992, our houses and properties were severely damaged. However, we overcame the crisis years after,” she said, pointing at her ramshackle house. It is the same case with many other families living on the banks of the Cheruthoni River.

The 45 year-old dam has been untouched since October 12, 1992 when it was last opened. The 550 foot high, double curvature dam is built on a spot in the course of the Periyar between two granite hills - named the Kuravan and Kurinchi.

The Express report quoted an official of the revenue department as saying that all precautionary measures have been taken in view of the rising water level in the two dams.