Forests, Wildlife, Standing, Liability, Jurisdiction, Permits, Wetlands, Contract, Inspections, Remedies
In 1998 a petition was filed by Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy and the Tamil Nadu government. The appellants had sought court direction to Kerala to raise the height of the dam to 152 feet. Kerala had argued against the increase in the height of the dam on grounds of security of people living downriver. In September 2001 the “Mullaperiyar Environmental Protection Forum” had appealed to the court against the proposal to raise the height of the dam beyond 136 feet with a petition seeking review of its verdict allowing raising of water level of Mullaperiyar Dam in Kerala from 136 feet to 142 feet, raising questions about safety of people and environmental degradation and threat to the wildlife population in the area. Having regard to the nature of disputes between the two States, The Court considered to have full jurisdiction and that the aspect of increase of water level is dependant upon the safety of the dam after strengthening steps have been taken. This aspect has been examined by experts and does not fall under any dispute or question which should be referred to arbitration. On the question whether the raising of water level of the reservoir from 136 ft. to 142 ft. would result in jeopardising the safety of the people and also degradation of environment, the three-judge bench had noted that such security fears were baseless, as found by a committee set up by the central government. Strengthening work of existing dam in forest cannot be described as non-forestry activity so as to require prior approval from centre. The expert committee reported that increase in water level will be beneficial for wildlife in surrounding area, therefore there will be no violations of wild life Act. As far as safety issues are concerned there was no report to suggest that safety of dam would be jeopardized if water level is raised, hence, water level is allowed to be raised to 142 ft. The court also allowed the Tamil Nadu government to carry out necessary repairs of the dam before the water level was raised to the maximum of 152 feet. The court had clarified that before permitting the water level to be raised to 152 feet, the Tamil Nadu will appoint an expert committee to determine whether necessary repairs were undertaken.