Water Levels Plunge In Peppara-KWA Sounds Alarm Bells
A sharp plunge in water levels in the Peppara Dam, from where water is supplied to the Aruvikkara reservoir and in turn to the city, has started ringing alarm bells for the Kerala Water Authority, which is now asking for shutter gates of the dam to be closed temporarily to preserve water for the coming days. KWA has also asked the State government for permission to move ahead with its pending demand to raise the storage level from the existing 104.5 metres by six metres.
KWA wrote in June to the Water Resources Department pointing out that the water level has “alarmingly fallen”, the levels coming down as low as 95.7m as on June 25. On Thursday, the level was 98.3m. Both are the lowest in the history of the dam for the last one decade, with the water level in June corresponding to 32.5million metric cubes, sufficient to cater to supply of just one month.
“If sufficient monsoon is not received immediately, the situation will be very alarming,” KWA had cautioned then. Meagre tidings from the rain gods kept the situation on a manageable level so far, but with the monsoon continuing to play truant, the Authority is once again asking for urgent intervention from the government.
Water levels in Peppara had always been around the precincts of 104.5m-104.8m, with the previous lowest being 103.4m in 2009. “But now, for the first time, it has gone below 100m. That calls for urgent steps,” KWA Managing Director Ashok Kumar Singh said.
What has come up as an obstacle for KWA from lowering gates and raising storage levels to 110.5m as was announced in the 2011-2012 State budget speech has been strong opposition from the Centre and the Forests Department, who point out that any such move could submerge forest land of about 240hectares, which is against Forest conservation rules that stress on not diverting existing forest land for non-forest purposes. But KWA argues that at the time of approving the dam in 1976, demarcation of land requiring felling of trees was done up to 110.5m, and further, since this was done before 1980, the present Forest conservation rules do not apply to the region.
“With water tanks under JICA also being commissioned, there is no other solution other than closure of the radial gates of the dam during monsoon to preserve and keep water levels to 110.5m, which translates into a quantity of 70 million metric cubes, so that we don’t have to face an absolute absence of water once the monsoon is over. The fact that sanction to the dam was given in 1976, when none of the forest rules existed, must be given consideration by the Centre while approving our demand,” Mr. Singh says.