Mullaperiyar: Missing the Point
R Seenivasan’s article (“Historical Validity of Mullaperiyar Project”, EPW, 25 January 2014) on the Mullaperiyar Project, hereafter MP, is a scholarly, well-researched, informative piece of historical writing. Regrettably, he seems to have failed to understand the thrust of my criticisms of the project. When a critic says that the project was an unnecessary and indefensible onslaught on nature, it is no answer to argue that it represented the best engineering. Given a purely engineering perspective, the project might well have seemed very good in the 1890s. However, that perspective ceased long ago to be unquestioningly accepted.
Seenivasan questions my remarks about hubristic engineering, and about rivers being treated as no more than pipelines to be turned, cut and welded. What are the undisputed facts in this case? The waters of a west-flowing river were substantially turned eastwards, made to flow through a 5,700 ft-long tunnel, and led into the Vaigai. Was my description, cited disapprovingly by Seenivasan, inappropriate for such a project?