Govt. conspiring to aid T.N. in Mullaperiyar row: UDF

‘Tree felling to strengthen baby dam will bolster TN’s case to raise reservoir level further’

The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) Opposition walked out of the Assembly on Monday, accusing the Government of conspiring to advantage Tamil Nadu in the Mullaperiyar dam dispute.

Congress legislator Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, who moved an adjournment motion to debate the matter, said the Forest Department had covertly allowed Tamil Nadu to cut 15 trees to strengthen the baby dam at Mullaperiyar.

The “dubious” order paved the way for Tamil Nadu to counter Kerala’s demand for a new dam at Mullaperiyar. It also aided Tamil Nadu’s case for raising the water level in the 126-year-old dam to a perilous 152 ft by claiming that it had fortified the baby dam.

Mr. Radhakrishnan said the Forest Department had promulgated the “pro-Tamil Nadu” order without the mandatory clearance of the State and Central Wildlife Board and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. The whole affair smacked of a well-entrenched plot against Kerala’s interests, he said.

The government had imperilled 40 lakh citizens living in five districts downstream from “seismically unstable” Mullaperiyar to aid Tamil Nadu’s interests.

Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan said the political executive was involved in the conspiracy to jeopardise Kerala’s aspirations for a new dam at Mullaperiyar.

The controversial order enabling Tamil Nadu to fell trees to strengthen the baby dam had emerged in the public domain after Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu M.K. Stalin announced it in a “thanksgiving” message to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Mr. Vijayan and Forest Minister A.K. Saseendran feigned surprise. They scrambled to “freeze” the order when the scale of the deceit dawned on the public.

“No official would dare issue such an order that runs against the grain of Kerala’s stance on Mullaperiyar in the Supreme Court without the consent of the political executive. Only a judicial inquiry will detect the truth,” he said.

Mr. Saseendran said IFS and IAS officials were involved in the faux pas. An investigation was on to fix responsibility. The order was against Kerala’s stance on Mullaperiyar and the guilty would face legal retribution. “No directive that runs against Kerala’s stance on Mullaperiyar would pass muster, whoever issues it,” he said. The government has frozen the order.

Mr. Saseendran said IFS and IAS officials were involved in the issue. The Government had to follow a process before holding them to account, he said.

Speaker M.B. Rajesh rejected the motion.

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