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Memorial to Chola king who built dam 2,000 years ago

Posted on Jan 16, 10:45AM | IANS

The Tamil Nadu government will build a memorial to Karikala Chozhan, the Chola king who, more than 2,000 years ago, built the Kallanai (Grand Anicut) across the Kollidam/Cauvery river near Tiruchirapalli, around 320 km from here, Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa said Tuesday.

Inaugurating the memorial of Colonel John Pennycuick, a British engineer who had built the Mullaperiyar Dam at Theni district, Jayalalithaa said: "The Kallanai is much older than Mullaperiyar Dam. Built more than 2,000 years ago by Karikala Chozhan, the dam still serves crores of people and is an engineering wonder."

She said Kallanai is the oldest dam in the country that is still in service.

The Mullaperiyar Dam was built to help people in the Vagai river region affected by drought when rains failed.

Jayalalithaa said the British government thought out a plan to divert the waters of Periyar river that emptied itself in the Arabian Sea in western India 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.

At that time the project cost was estimated at Rs.5.3 million, Jayalalithaa said.

Pennycuick and his team completed half the dam in three years when the work had to be stopped due to heavy rains. Construction was halted as the British government was not able to allot more funds for the project.

Pennycuick went back to England and raised money by selling his property and completed the dam in 1895. The dam irrigates around 223,000 acres in Theni, Dindugul, Madurai, Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram districts.

While it is located in Kerala, the control of the dam is with Tamil Nadu and its waters serve the state. Both the states have been at loggerheads over water sharing from the dam.

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.