Madurai: Delay in water release for irrigation

Situation may become worse if there is further delay in rainfall

THENI: Despite onset of south west monsoon in time, poor storage in Periyar dam and sporadic or no rain in its catchment areas may delay the release of water from the dam for irrigation of first crop in the double cropping area of Cumbum Valley.

alas: A scenic view of Mullaperiyar dam on Western Ghats near Tamil Nadu border.

Farmers were perplexed over storage level in the dam. Water level stood at 110.20 feet in Periyar dam. Inflow and discharge was just 20 cusecs. (Release is possible only when the level touched 112 feet.)

Normally, Public Works Department engineers release water from the dam for irrigation on June 1. But farming activities and raising nurseries start in the last week of May to do transplantation in the second week of June. Farmers utilise seepage water from the dam to raise nurseries. It takes minimum 45 days to raise nurseries using traditional method.

But these things did not take place in the valley this year.

Possibility of releasing water even in the second week of June for irrigation was solely depending on rain in its catchment areas, said farmers. But poor rain in catchment areas of Periyar dam shattered our hopes. Delay in release would affect all agriculture activities, hit harvesting of first crop and ultimately force us to postpone the second crop, they deplored.

“Farmers in the valley harvest two paddy crops in September or October and January or February and the third crop either pulses or millets, before April. We hope the rain will pick up at right time,” said K.M. Abbas, president, Five District Farmers Associations.

Level in Vaigai dam too was not encouraging. Water level stood at 29.23 feet. Inflow was nil and the discharge was 41 cusecs.

Water crisis

Already, Cumbum town, very close to the dam, have been reeling under acute drinking water crisis. The Cumbum Municipality was struggling to maintain drinking water supply. At present, supply was made to residents once in 20 days. Besides, 40 wells were dug to meet drinking water needs of village and town panchayats.

Despite stern actions taken by the district administration against illegal pumping from river, drinking water supply could not be streamlined in several areas. Releasing water from the dam for irrigation without streamlining drinking water supply was very remote, said representatives of farmers’ association. However, sudden showers in Idukki district on Thursday evening and moderate rain in Goodalur and Cumbum Valley last night keep farmers’ hope alive.

Rainfall recorded at various places in the district at 8 a.m. on Thursday (in mm) was: Periyar 23, Shanmuga River Dam 8, Veerapandi 6, Thekkadi 1.8, Palayam 12 and Vaigai dam 1.

K. Raju From THE HINDU

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