Kochi: Kerala Government on Friday informed the state High Court that in the light of concerns over the safety of the 116-year-old Mullaiperiyar dam, various measures such as installation of digital sensors, early warning systems and digital seismographs would be undertaken by it.

In an affidavit, the government said it had identified 450 families (living near the dam) which are to be evacuated on a war-footing in the event of an emergency.

The statement was filed before a division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice P R Ramachandra Menon on a batch of petitions expressing apprehensions over the safety of the dam.

The petitions were filed in the backdrop of the dam issue hotting up with Kerala mounting pressure for building a new reservoir across Mullaperiyar apprehending threat to the safety of the dam. Tamil Nadu is opposing the move saying it would deprive its share of water for irrigation.

The affidavit said the Disaster Management Department has decided to install digital sensors downstream the Mullaperiyar Dam to monitor the water level on a daily basis.

The installation of the first group of sensors was being completed after identifying the most suitable locations, the government stated in the affidavit.

Besides, Tamil Nadu will be asked to reduce the water level from 136 feet to 120 feet since the dam is operated by them. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has also written to his Tamil Nadu counterpart, it was stated.

When the matter came up before the bench, Advocate General K P Dhandapani blamed the media for creating panic (in the past few days over safety of the dam).

The bench disagreed with it saying they (media) were doing their duty. The court observed if that was the case, 'why was everyone rushing to Delhi and why were several committees being formed here.'

It directed the government to inform about the time taken for the waters from the Mullaiperiyar to reach Idukki, Kulamavu and Cheruthoni dams, all located in Idukki district.

The court also wanted to know the time taken for draining water from Idukki Dam into Arabian Sea and directed the AG to bring technical experts before the court on December 6.

The bench had earlier in the day asked the government to inform it by 1 PM today the water level at Idukki, Cheruthoni and Kulamavu dams and raised various questions on the capacity and water level of Mullaiperiyar and three other dams.

Earlier, the bench also wanted to know from the government steps taken to lower the water level in these dams and said 'the verbal exercise will not do'. The AG said a high level meeting with the participation of Naval officers will be convened.

The court asked the Government whether it was prepared to take help from Army anticipating threat to the dam.

The government affidavit said in the event of 'failure' of Mullaiperiyar Dam, flood waters would necessarily reach the Idukki reservoir and Kulamavu and Cheruthoni dams. Hence it was decided to reduce water level in Idukki and other dams.

It also said infrared-camera based early warning system was being installed urgently in the vicinity of Mullaperiyar dam, Idukki dam and some areas between and along the river bank.

Since the vulnerability of the dam was also attributed to the enhanced seismic activity in Idukki district, three digital seismographs would be installed in the district and required funds have already been transferred.

The state government has constituted a Hazard, Vulnerability and Risk Assessment cell under the combined auspices of Department of Revenue, Kerala state Disaster Management Authority and Centre for Earth Sciences Studies. A disaster contingency plan would be prepared in the shortest possible time and mock drills would be conducted.

(Agencies)