The Supreme Court on Friday told the Tamil Nadu government to maintain the water level of the Mullaperiyar dam to 139 feet till 31 August in the wake of the devastation caused by unprecedented floods in the Kerala.

Kerala resident Russel Roy had filed a plea seeking, among other things, a direction to Tamil Nadu to manage the water level in the dam as the floods in Kerala have created havoc.

On Thursday, the Kerala government told the Supreme Court that the Tamil Nadu government contributed to the flood situation by suddenly releasing the water of the Mullaperiyar dam.

A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud made it clear on Friday that it would confine itself to the aspect of disaster management and said that the decision to lower the water limit in the dam has been taken in view of the devastating deluge in Kerala.

The bench fixed the matter for hearing on 6 September and asked Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to file their responses in the meantime.

Kerala government said that Kerala’s Water Resources Secretary had written to her counterpart in Tamil Nadu and the Chairman of the Supervisory Committee on Mullaperiyar dam requesting controlled release of water without waiting for the water level in the reservoir to reach its full level.

In its affidavit, the state government led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vaijayan said that the Tamil Nadu government gave no positive assurance despite repeated requests.

“But the sudden release from the Mullaperiyar dam, the third largest reservoir in the Periyar Basin, forced us to release more water from Idukki reservoir, downstream of Mullaperiyar, which is one of the causes of this deluge,” the Kerala government said.

But Tamil Nadu Chief Minister EK Palaniswami contested Kerala’s accusation. Speaking to the media on Friday, the CM called the charges against his government “false and baseless”.

“If you say, excess water was discharged from one dam (Mullaperiyar) then how did water reach all parts of Kerala? The excess discharge of water from 80 dams caused flood in Kerala,” he said.

The CM added that water from the dam was released in a phased manner and not suddenly as alleged by Kerala government.

“Water from Mullaperiyar Dam was released one week after the floods struck Kerala. It was not done immediately after the floods. Three warnings were issued – first at 139 feet, second at 141 feet and third warning at 142 feet,” said Palaniswami.

The Mullaperiyar Dam is located on the Western Ghats near Thekkady in Idukki district of Kerala on the Periyar river. It is operated by the Tamil Nadu government.

The top court had earlier ordered the disaster management panel of the Mullaperiyar Dam to urgently decide on lowering the water level.

The Tamil Nadu government had opposed the plea with regard to bringing down the water level, saying the current inflow of water into the dam was 20,000 cusecs and due to rains, it may not be possible to reduce water level immediately.

Some 370 people have died since the monsoon rains began on 29 May and 1 million people are still sheltered in relief camps after torrential rains since 8 August and the opening of the sluice gates of dams led to the worst floods in Kerala in nearly a century.

(With inputs from agencies.)