With the water level in Kerala's largest hydro electric reservoir Idukki rising close to the Full Reservoir Level due to incessant rains, the authorities today sounded the possibility of draining excess water down the Periyar river. In Kochi, an emergency cell was constituted at the international airport at nearby Nedumbassery to ensure that operations are not affected in case there is flooding if the shutters of the Idukki dam are opened.
The Idukki district administration held an emergency meeting and worked out a contingency plan to ensure the safety of people living in downstream areas close to the dam.
The Kerala State Electricity Board also monitored the situation and decided on the modalities of opening at least one of the shutters if the water level rose further.
According to KSEB Chief Engineer (Dams) K K Karappankutty, the water mark in the dam had touched 98 per cent of 2,403 feet and if it rose by one more feet, one or two shutters would have to be opened.
This would not pose any danger to people in the area though they would be informed of the situation in advance.
Though there was a let up in rains in catchment areas, the inflow is still on and if the current situation continued the shutters would be opened to release water through Periyar, a major lifeline of Kerala, stretching upto Aluva near Kochi.
If the dam's shutters are opened, the Periyar could get swollen but it would not pose any serious threat to people living on the banks, officials said.
They said the dam was opened in a similar situation some 21 years back without causing any danger to people downstream.
State Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash said in the state capital there was no need for panic as the official machinery had been fully geared up to ensure safety of the people.
A contingent of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has been requisitioned as a precautionary measure.
State Electricity Minister Aryadan Muhammad said if it was essential to release excess water it would be done only during the day time.
Meanwhile, a report from Sabarimala said nearly 3,000 Ayyappa pilgrims have been stranded at the "Sannidhanam" and the base camp downhill as the river Pampa is overflowing due to opening of shutters of the upstream Muzhiyar dam.
The pilgrims, returning home after worshipping at the hill shrine which opened for the monthly poojas, got held up as they could not cross the swollen river as the 'Thriveni bridge" got submerged, police sources at Sabarimala said.
However, they are safe and police and fire force personnel have started helping them cross the bridge in small batches to get to the road where buses and private vehicles are parked.