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THE MULLAPERIYAR CONFLICT: Meeting to understand issues and explore a common ground

The Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India (Forum to be brief) is happy to invite you to the “The Mullaperiyar conflict: Meeting to understand issues and explore a common ground” to be held on 4th August 2009 between 4 to 8 pm at Constitutional Club, New Delhi.

The Forum does believe that with scientific inputs and a spirit of cooperation and dialogue amongst the conflicting parties most of the conflicts around water can be resolved. It is in this spirit that the Forum has taken the initiative to organize this meeting on the Mullaperiyar conflict.

As you know, for various reasons, the 1886 agreement (lease deed) between the then Maharaja of Travancore and the erstwhile Madras Presidency – perhaps the first formal inter-state, inter-basin water sharing and transfer in India – which led to the construction of the Mullaperiyar dam has come under stress in the recent times. The end result has been the escalating tension between Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and as each tries to prove the validity of its case, the possibility of finding an amicable settlement of the issue seems to recede further every year. In the recent years many efforts have been made on various political, legal and administrative fronts to resolve the issue. However, the Forum feels that there is a need to focus the effort more on understanding each other’s standpoints and concerns and exploring common areas of agreement through a process of dialogue (or even better, a trialogue – between the conflicting parties and civil society experts) on various issues that are unfolding around the Mullaperiyar conflict ranging from inter-state agreements, the legal framework, dam safety, environmental justice, irrigated agriculture and so on.

The Forum’s effort in organising this 4th August meeting is aimed at filling this central gap. The main objective of the meeting is to first understand the issues involved, the different viewpoints around the conflict and then to explore common ground between the two conflicting parties and see whether agreement can be reached on a few action points and steps that can pave the way to a solution which can address the concerns of both the parties in a win-win or positive sum framework.

The meeting will be initiated by presentations of the Kerala and Tamil Nadu viewpoints about the conflict and this would be followed by presentations from three or four independent experts on the wider issues involved like inter-state agreements, environmental issues and dam safety. This would be followed by an open discussion in which participants can express their opinion on the issues involved and especially on what could be done to resolve the issues. The Forum is making efforts to get the participation of the concerned ministers and the technical experts from both the states. Since the parliament is in session, we also expect participation of MPs from both the states.

Kindly confirm your participation to Ms. Alisha Vasudev (011-23236440; 9953203283) or Ms. Shruti Vispute (020-25880786/25886542; 9850260360).

Expecting your presence and participation in this important meeting

Warm regards,

K. J. Joy

Venue of the meeting: Deputy Speaker Hall, Constitutional Club, New Delhi

The Tentative Program schedule: 4.00 pm to 8 pm; 4th August 2009

Welcome and introduction

Kerala: Shri Parameshwaran Nair, technical expert of Government of Kerala on Mullaperiyar issue
Tamil Nadu: yet to be confirmed

Comments/brief presentations by experts
Central Water Commission (yet to be confirmed)
Prof. A. K. Gosain, IIT, Delhi
Prof. Brij Gopal, formerly with the Department of Environmental Sciences, JNU, New Delhi
Prof. Ramaswamy Iyer, Ex-Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India and presently with the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

Open discussion

Vote of thanks