New Delhi: Thee conflict between Tamil Nadu and Kerala over the Mullaperiyar dam is set to escalate further.
The Jayalalithaa government has banned the release of 'Dam 999', a controversial film which takes a pro-Kerala stand by raising questions about the safety of the dam. MP's from Kerala are likely to discuss the issue with the PM on Friday.
It's a movie about the collapse of a dam in 1975 in China which resulted in the loss of thousands of lives. But in 2011, 'Dam 999' is caught in the cross fire between Tamil Nadu and Kerala over the safety of the Mullaiperiyar dam.
Kerala fears that the dam is not safe. Chennai reiterates it is in the midst of a historic legal, political and emotive dispute. Political groups in Tamil Nadu protested against the the film claiming it re-enforces Kerala's argument forcing the state government to ban it's release.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor says, "The films release came in the midst of a reignited debate in Kerala over the dam's safety after a series of tremors in the catchment area. It's a traditional argument that the dam's not safe and wants the water level in the dam reduced to 120 ft from the present 132 ft. It's the latest twist in a long legal dispute."
In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Tamil Nadu and allowed the storage in the dam to be raised to 142 feet from the present 136 feet. Kerala had opposed any increase and instead wanted storage reduced to 120 feet.
Kerala reacted by passing a 'Dam Safety Act' not allowing the increase in storage. The matter is now pending before the SC Empowered committee.
Politically for the Congress led UDF government Mullaperiyar is an emotive issue to reiterate the government's image in the state. And MP's from Kerala have now met the Prime Minister to put pressure on the centre to intervene, says Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.
In Tamil Nadu, water from the dam is the life line for agriculture in three southern districts, which are also Jayalalithaa's bastion. It would be disastrous for the government to conceded any ground to Kerala. Especially as the earlier Supreme Court order goes in the state's favour.
It's perhaps a reminder that every water dispute in the country is emotive and has political overtones in the midst of which a settlement is virtually impossible. Mullaiperiyar is no different.