Chennai: When the Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala — Edappadi K. Palaniswami and Pinarayi Vijayan — meet later this month in Thiruvananthapuram to discuss issues concerning the Parambikulam Aliyar Project (PAP) agreement, it will mark the first meeting at the chief ministerial level after a gap of nearly 15 years.
Though there are indications that the proposed meeting may take place on September 25, a senior government official said the date was yet to be finalised.
In November 2004, the then CMs of the two States — Jayalalithaa and Oommen Chandy — met in Chennai. Barring statements from the two leaders that the States were keen on an early solution to water issues, the meeting did not see any breakthrough.
Since then, several rounds of talks have taken place between the two sides. The last time the political executive of the two States met was in April 2013, when a decision was taken to attend to a few immediate issues.
For quite some time, Kerala has been seeking a meeting at the highest level as it wants to thrash out certain issues concerning the agreement.
It has in the past complained that Tamil Nadu had not been adhering to some of the provisions of the agreement. However, Tamil Nadu has maintained that despite some of the “peculiar” conditions of the agreement, it has been providing water to Kerala.
Regarded as a symbol of cooperation between the two neighbouring States in diverting the surplus water of one State to irrigate the dry lands of the other, the PAP envisages the diversion of eight west-flowing rivers to Tamil Nadu for the benefit of the Coimbatore and Tiruppur districts. An agreement between the two States was signed in May 1970, with retrospective effect from November 1958. It provides for the diversion of a total of 30.5 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) annually from Kerala to Tamil Nadu. Also, Kerala should get 7.25 tmc ft through Manacadvu weir and 12.3 tmc ft at its Sholayar dam annually.
As far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, there are broadly two issues. For nearly 25 years, the State has been pressing its neighbour to agree to the diversion of 2.5 tmc ft of Anamalaiyar river water, as it is of the view that Kerala has completed the Idamalayar project, to which the diversion is linked. But it is the case of the neighbouring State that the project has not yet been completed. Besides, of late, Kerala has been telling Tamil Nadu that it would like to execute the Anamalaiyar dam project by itself.
In June 2013, it sent a feasibility report to Tamil Nadu, which has sought more details. In March this year, the Tamil Nadu government received a report from its technical experts on the implementation of the Anamalaiyar project and the Nirar–Nallar multi-purpose project.
The other issue pertains to the setting up of an alternative route to the present arrangement of taking water from the Upper Nirar weir to four reservoirs — Sholayar (which is another dam of the same name but located in the limits of Tamil Nadu), Parambikulam (located in Kerala), Aliyar and Thirumurthy. The proposed alignment will transfer water from Upper Nirar directly to Nallar and Thirumurthy. This can be done through a straight canal, whose length will be 20 km, whereas the existing network transfers water over a distance of around 100 km. But Kerala has objected to this scheme, saying the proposal does not fall under the PAP agreement.
Former Public Works Minister Durai Murugan felt the State government should ensure that it includes in its team a few retired senior engineers who had handled issues pertaining to the PAP for a long time. D. Thirukkural Arasu, former Special Chief Engineer of the PAP circle, said priority may be accorded to getting the consent of Kerala for the Anamalaiyar diversion.