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UN report raises alarm over India's Mullaperiyar Dam, says 126-yr-old dam has outlived its life

Hovering high up in the Western Ghats, adjacent to Kerala’s famed Periyar wildlife sanctuary, is a 126-year-old dam that has dangerously outlived the 50 years of life intended for it by colonial British engineers.

UN report raises alarm over India's Mullaperiyar Dam, says 126-yr-old dam has outlived its life-dnm
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Thiruvananthapuram, First Published Oct 25, 2021, 3:07 PM IST
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The United Nations University's Institute for Water, Environment and Health has raised an alarm about the situation of the Mullaperiyar dam in Kerala. Called 'Ageing Water Storage Infrastructure: An Emerging Global Risk ', the report comprises the efforts of Duminda Perera, Vladimir Smakhtin, Spencer Williams, Taylor North, Allen Curry.

A report has said that ageing of large dams is an emerging global development issue as they pose threats to human safety and environment. The report said that Mullaperiyar dam, built in 1895, is situated in a landslide-prone area. “If at all any failure occurs in the dam around 3.5 million people will be affected,” it said.

Hovering high up in the Western Ghats, adjacent to Kerala’s famed Periyar wildlife sanctuary, is a 126-year-old dam that has dangerously outlived the 50 years of life intended for it by colonial British engineers.

Moreover, the dam is located in an earthquake-prone area. Small-time earthquakes that had happened in 1979 and 2011 caused some cracks in the dam. The leakage in the dam is another cause of concern. The report also pointed out that the technology which was put into use for constructing the dam 125 years ago was obsolete compared to the sophisticated construction methods used now.

Also read: Kerala rains: High alert sounded before 3 dams open floodgates

In July 2011, Idukki district experienced a series of tremors, the latest one hitting the region on November 26, 2011. Although the intensity of the earthquake was slight, around 3.2 on the Richter Scale, it muddled the already turbulent issue of Mullaperiyar dam. Soon after this earthquake, the water level in this dam rose to around 136ft, which is supposedly much larger than its capacity, the report added.

The UN University reviewed the security threats faced by the world’s oldest dams, especially located in India, the United States of America, France, Canada, Japan, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Four Asian countries - China, Japan, India and South Korea - contribute to 55 per cent of dams across the world and the majority of these dams are approaching the 50-year limit. As per the report, 1,115 large dams located in India will reach the 50-year mark by 2025.

The report states that in India, around 4,250 large dams will be over 50-year-old in 2015 and 64 large dams will be over 150-year-old in 2050. It states that the Mullaperiyar dam in Kerala, which was built on the Periyar river in 1895, is also in danger.

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