Chennai, Jan 12 (IANS) Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa will inaugurate the memorial of Colonel John Pennycuick, the British engineer who had built the Mullaperiyar dam, in Theni district Jan 15.
In a statement issued here Saturday, the government said Jayalalithaa last year had announced the construction of memorial at an outlay of Rs.1.25 crore.
The southern Tamil Nadu districts of Theni, Dindugul, Madurai, Ramanathapuram and Sivaganga play an important role in fulfilling the food needs of the state and these areas get irrigated with waters from the Mullaperiyar dam.
The 117-year-old dam is built to store waters of the Mullaiyar and Periyar rivers instead of allowing them to go waste into the sea. The dam also satisfies the drinking water needs of these districts in a major way.
The dam was originally thought off as a way to help people of the then Madras Presidency affected by drought when rains failed.
Pennycuick thought out a plan to divert the waters of Periyar river that emptied itself in the Arabian Sea in the West towards East so that lakhs of acres of dry land could be irrigated.
A plan was drawn by Pennycuick to form the Periyar Thekkadi resorvoir from where the water is taken to Vaigai river in Tamil Nadu.
Pennycuick and his team braving rains, wild animals and flash floods completed half the dam in three years when the work had to be stopped due to heavy rains.
The construction work halted as the British government was not able to allot funds for the project.
Pennycuick, finding the project work stalled, went back to England raised money by selling his own property and completed the dam in 1895 that now irrigates around 223,000 acres in Theni, Dindugul, Madurai, Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram districts.
The dam is built as a masonry gravity dam so that it will not be affected by the earth's tremors.
Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been at loggerheads over the dam, built under an 1886 accord between the then Maharaja of Travancore and the erstwhile British Raj.
While it is located in Kerala, the control of the dam is with Tamil Nadu and its waters serve the state.
Tamil Nadu wants the dam's storage capacity to be increased from the current 136 feet (41.5 metres) to 142 feet (43 metres) as per a Supreme Court order, while Kerala wants a new dam as the control will be with it.