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Engagement with Active Water Conflicts

Meeting on Mullaperiyar Water Conflict: Meeting to understand issues and explore a common ground, 4 August 2009 
The Forum had organised a meeting on the Mullaperiyar water conflict between Tamil Nadu and Kerala on 4 August 2009 at the Deputy Speaker’s Hall, Constitutional Club, New Delhi. Dr. Biksham Gujja, Policy Advisor of the Living Water Programme at WWF International, Gland, Switzerland and also Team Leader of WWF-ICRISAT Project on Water Productivity in Agriculture, chaired the meeting. On behalf of Kerala government Mr. M. Sasidharan, Retd Chief Engineer, Technical expert from Kerala on Mullaperiyar issue made a presentation on the issue.
Experts like Prof. Subhash Chander, Formerly with The Department of Civil Engineering, IIT, Delhi and international expert on dam safety; 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 and Suhas Paranjape, Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India and SOPPECOM, Pune spoke at the meeting bringing out different dimensions of the case. Mr. N K Premachandran, Minister, Water Resources, Kerala, also spoke at the meeting and also promised all help and cooperation to the efforts of the Forum. About 7-8 MPs from Kerala actively participated in the meeting.
One of the lacunae of the meeting was that nobody from Tamil Nadu agreed to speak at the meeting irrespective of making efforts at various levels till the last moment. The meeting was organized in the background of the increasing tension between Tamil Nadu and Kerala on this issue. The main objective of the meeting was to 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. It can then 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 came up with few suggestions. Some of the important suggestions include:

  • To take up three thematic studies:

a) storage and water delivery/conveyance to TN – different options for that;
b) environmental issues in both upstream and downstream of the dam,
c) the ayacut/irrigated command – issues of the extent, cropping pattern, water use, water use efficiency, alternatives (less water intensive crops, alternative agronomical practices to reduce water use and so on).

  • To set up an independent committee/commission to look into the issues and suggest a way out.
  • Initiate interaction at various levels from both the states – farmers, people's science movements, teachers/academics, civil society organizations and so on.
  • The Forum could join as a party to the Supreme Court case and put up its view point. There was a strong suggestion that the Forum should not see the whole issue as a technical one, but more of a people’s issue and involve people in the efforts.