Today I watched this award-winning documentary (Click on the play button to watch it) by Mr. Sohan Roy titled “Dams: Lethal Water Bombs”. I confess that many a shiver went down my spine. I am a Keralite; but I am not writing this as one but as a human being who wants peaceful existence possible wherever I live – not only for us, human beings but for all forms of life.
This post therefore is not about politics.
It is not about one state versus the other.
Neither is it about water sharing.
Nor is it about who is right and who is wrong.
This is just about living beings’ right to live.
It is about the stark reality staring at human beings in a land that houses a decrepit dam, one that is in a “rare state of dilapidation”. In Silenced Rivers: The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams, Patrick McCully says, “Once a dam has proved itself well enough built to hold back a reservoir (many dam failures occur either during construction or during or shortly after reservoir filling) its structure and component parts will begin to age. The unique nature of each dam means that every structure will age at a different rate in a different way. Some dams may remain safe for a thousand years, others may start to crack and leak after less than a decade. Around the world, some 5,000 large dams are now more than 50 years old, and the number and size of the dams reaching their half century is rapidly increasing.”
MULLAIPERIYAR … if one goes by what McCully says about ageing dams, this one is decrepitly old – to be precise a grand old age of 116 years! The location of the dam further complicates issues. Built at the confluence of rivers Mullai and Periyar, in Idukki district, Mullaiperiyar is situated at an elevation of 850 MSL, in the ecologically fragile landscape of the Western Ghats. Being so, the catchment area alone boasts of over 2000 mm of rainfall annually. To add insult on injury, it is also precariously perched on the seismic fault line and has a fair share of tremors. In 2011 alone as many as 22 mild tremors and after-shocks have occurred in parts of Idukki and adjoining Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts since January this year, the latest ones being on 18th November, 2011 measuring 2.02 and 3.04 respectively on the Richter scale.
What does all this mean to me as a lay person?
A catastrophe is awaiting millions living downstream Mullaiperiar! And sadly it could be the worst in the annals of human history!!
The force of the rushing waters can bring down all small dams downstream including and even the mighty Idukki dam! That will unleash the latent water power akin to power of nuclear bombs!!
Heavy silting and unstable hill tops will bring more disasters in its wake!
An ecological time bomb awaits the destruction of fragile yet pristine forests and hundreds of species of flora and fauna including the endemic and red listed ones!
A realistic estimate predicts sheets of water about 42 feet in height would gush down – which would reach the Arabian Sea in just over 5 hours!
So people, can we set aside parochialism, differences in perceptions, ideas and political beliefs and look at this from a purely humane angle, in the name of lives of not only people but also flora and fauna housed in a part of one of the world’s hottest biodiversity spots???
By sheer coincidence the movie titled DAM 999, an upcoming 3D Hollywood movie, a tribute to the two and a half lakh people who perished in the world’s worst man made China’s Banqiao dam disaster of 1975, directed by Sohan Roy is all set for release on 24th November in the Middle East and 25th November in India.
Let us hope that the mass appeal of the silver screen will be an eye opener to the powers that be and do its best to spread the message of untold misery and suffering a dam catastrophe can bring in its wake.
SAVE MULLAPERIYAR! SAVE PEOPLE!! SAVE THE FRAGILE ECOSYSTEM AND ITS DENIZENS!!!
Silenced Rivers: The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams, by Patrick McCully, Zed Books, London, 1996