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No water for irrigation despite brimming Cauvery river, say Tamil Nadu farmers

Thousands of families have been evacuated from Tamil Nadu’s Salem, Erode, Namakkal and Karur districts due to the outflow from the Cauvery but farmers living in the districts near the river mouth claim water has not been flowing into irrigation canals leading to their fields.

india Updated: Aug 17, 2018 23:28 IST
M Manikandan
M Manikandan
Hindustan Times, Chennai
Tamil Nadu,Cauvery river,Tamil Nadu farmers
This is the first time since 2005 that there is such an overflow in the Cauvery, thanks to heavy rain in the river’s catchment areas in Karnataka, following which about 170,000 cusecs were released from the Krishna Raja Sagara and Kabini dams in that state.(PTI File Photo)

About 170,000 cusecs of water has been released from the full-to-capacity Mettur dam into the Cauvery this year but farmers in Tamil Nadu’s Cuddalore and Nagapattinam districts claim they are not getting enough to irrigate their fields.

The farmers, living in the districts close to the tail end of the Cauvery, have been complaining that most of the water is simply draining into the Bay of Bengal in the absence of a check dam in Nagapattinam district and inadequate desilting of the network of canals that branch out from the river and lead into the fields.

This is the first time since 2005 that there is such an overflow in the Cauvery, thanks to heavy rain in the river’s catchment areas in Karnataka, following which about 170,000 cusecs were released from the Krishna Raja Sagara and Kabini dams in that state. Thousands of families have been evacuated from Tamil Nadu’s Salem, Erode, Namakkal and Karur districts due to the outflow from the Cauvery but farmers living in the districts near the river mouth claim water has not been flowing into irrigation canals leading to their fields.

Elankeeran Veeramani, the secretary of the Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Association, said over 25 tmc ft of water has drained into the Bay of Bengal since July but the farmers were still struggling to irrigate their fields.

“After reaching Mukkombu in Trichy, the Cauvery splits into the Kollidam, Cauvery, Vennar rivers and the Grand Anicut canal. Of these, Kollidam is the widest, which can carry 400,000 cusecs of water. As of now, about 150,000 cusecs is flowing into the Kollidam. But we are still struggling to get water for cultivation in 60,000 acres in the tail-end region,” Veeramani told HT.

Urging the state government to build a check dam to stop water from draining into the sea, he said, “When (J) Jayalalithaa was chief minister, she had announced that a check dam would be built across the Kollidam between Kumaramangalam in Nagapattinam district and Aadhanur in Cuddalore district. The project is yet to take shape.”

Cauvery Dhanapalan, the general secretary of the Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Association, claimed that many villages in the Cauvery’s tail-end region were deprived of water despite the flow exceeding normal supply level (NSL).

“The NSL for Vennar in Nagapattinam is 9,200 cusecs. But now 10,700 cusecs are flowing into it. In the delta region, the Cauvery flows for nearly 37,000 km in Trichy, Thanjavur, Thiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Pudukkottai and Cuddalore districts. The A-type and B-type canals are the primary rivers – Cauvery, Kollidam, Vennar and Grand Anicut canal. Branches of the primary rivers are the C-type and D-type canals, which connect to the agricultural fields. Because of the poor condition of the C-type and D-type canals, water is not flowing into them. Instead, there are breaches at a few points,” Dhanapalan explained.

PR Pandiyan, the co-ordinator of the Tamil Nadu All Farmers’ Co-ordination Committee, said constructing a check dam at Rasimanal near the Karnataka border was the only solution.

“In the early 60s, when K Kamarajar was the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, he laid the foundation stone for a check dam in Rasimanal to store water coming from Karnataka. But it did not materialise. Since the Cauvery region comprises plains, it is hard to construct check dams. So, constructing a check dam in hilly Rasimanal can help Tamil Nadu to store water and stop water from draining into the sea,” Pandiyan said.

Calls to ministers from the Cauvery Delta region, including OS Manian, R Kamaraj, R Doraikkannu and MC Sampath, for reactions to the farmers’ claims went unanswered. But a top public works department (PWD) official claimed desilting of canals had been properly done.

“Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami has already said that geographical conditions are not feasible to build a check dam in Tamil Nadu. However...we have desilted all the canals,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

First Published: Aug 17, 2018 23:04 IST