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Trichy farmers anxious after nine of 45 gates of Mukkombu dam washes away

The Mukkombu Dam is a regulator which splits water coming from Mettur into Kollidam and Cauvery rivers and the washing away of sluice gates has meant more water draining into Kollidam river

india Updated: Aug 23, 2018 21:30 IST
M Manikandan
M Manikandan
Hindustan Times, Chennai
mukkombu dam,trichy,farmers
Water flowing out from sluice gates of Kollidam river in Upper Anaicut (Mukkombu) on August 20th when it was in good condition. (HT Photo)

Farmers in Tamil Nadu are a worried lot after nine out of 45 sluice gates of the 190-year-old Upper Anaicut (also called Mukkombu Dam) in Trichy were washed away along with their piers Wednesday night sparking fears of flooding downstream of the Kollidam river and less water for four districts at the tail end areas of the Cauvery.

The Mukkombu Dam is a regulator which splits water coming from Mettur into Kollidam and Cauvery rivers and the washing away of sluice gates has meant more water draining into Kollidam river, but the state government insists that there is no need to panic.

The regulator dam was constructed by Sir Arthur Cotton, a British irrigation engineer who was inspired by the architectural beauty of Grand Anaicut canal built by Karikala Chola in Kallanai of Thanjavur district in the second century.

With large volume of water draining into Kollidam instead of the Cauvery river which is more important for farmers, Tamil Nadu’s cultivators are worried about samba (rice) crop cultivation.

This is due to the fact that it is Cauvery river which irrigates around 80 per cent of agriculture lands in Thanjavur, Thiruvarur, Nagapattinam and Pudukkottai districts of Tamil Nadu and with more water draining into Kollidam, the tailend areas of Cauvery may not get any water at all.

Since July, the water outflow from Mettur Dam in Tamil Nadu has been high because Karnataka has opened its Kabini and KRS dams due to heavy rains in the state, unlike previous years. About two lakh cusecs of water was released from Mettur last week. Though Karnataka has now reduced the outflow to 58,214 cusecs of water per day, the TN water resources department is releasing about 50,000 cusecs from Mettur to Upper Anaicut which is about 15 Kms west of Trichy.

Though Kollidam runs for 160 kms from Mukkombu and can carry 4.5 lakh cusecs of water, it is not very useful for cultivation, complain farmers. It is the Cauvery river which helps in cultivating more than eight lakh acres of land in Thanjavur, Thiruvarur, Nagapattinam and Pudukkottai districts through its 36 distributaries and their irrigation canals. Farmers say that more water in Kollidam is only likely to drain into the sea and the situation could pose threat for samba crop.

“Already there are about 50 TMC of water draining into the Bay of Bengal through Kollidam. With this damage to Mukkombu, more water will drain into the Sea. The Government has erred in not ensuring maintenance and upkeep of these sluice gates,” said Elankeeran Veeramani, president, Cauvery delta irrigation association.

P R Pandiyan, president, Tamil Nadu all farmers organizing committee said that the farmers may face another drought year in downstream districts of Cauvery river despite good water storage in Mettur.

“Water has not come into the tail end parts of the delta district. Many farmers who have sown seeds in the agricultural lands were waiting for Cauvery water. At this juncture, the damage in Upper Anaicut would further worsen the situation. Since Kollidam is broader and deeper than Cauvery, more amount of water will go into that. So, Tamil Nadu government should repair all the sluice gates of Upper Anaicut. If it fails to do, we would face another drought,” Pandiyan told HT.

Public works department’s principal secretary S K Prabhakar visited the dam on Thursday and said the issue would be addressed on a war footing. “Since water flow is low in Kollidam and Cauvery, there is no need to panic about a flood in Kollidam. Also, about 30,000 cusecs of water are going in to Cauvery. So, there will not be an issue of water for agriculture,” he said.

Prabhakar also said a barrage will be built across Kollidam in Alakkudi Village of Nagapattinam district.

M K Stalin, working president, DMK and leader of the opposition said that the government had failed to maintain the Upper Anaicut. “The ruling AIADMK government should take full responsibility for this. It should have ensured that Upper Anaicut is safe. Since Upper Aanaicut’s sluice gates have broken down, the government should check all the old dams and sluice gates for ensuring their safety and durability,” Stalin said.

Chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, who holds the PWD portfolio is likely to visit Upper Anaicut on Friday to assess the damage first hand.

First Published: Aug 23, 2018 21:30 IST