Reducing Mettur levels alarms farmers in Delta region

Shreenesh Raman
Mettur Dam

The Cauvery delta district farmers are showing signs of dilemma after the December monsoon rains failed to turn up and the reducing water level in Mettur dam. Already 10.5 lakh hectare of land is under Samba and Thalladi cultivation.
Generally, Tamilnadu receives most of its rain during the north east monsoon. This year the rains started in the second week of October, heavy rains poured in the months of October and November. Unfortunately, the monsoon rains started to slow down by December leading to a large scale fear among the farmers in the delta region.
Over 13 lakh hectares of land is under cultivation for the Thalladi and Samba crop season in Thanjavur, Nagapattinam, Tiruchy, Pudukottai, cuddalore districts. In delta region alone 8 lakh hectares of Samba and 2.5 lakh hectares of Thalladi is under cultivation. December month no rain, water is drawn from mettur, farmers totally dependent.
However the water level on Tuesday evening was 105.56 feet, with more than 12000 cusec water discharged for irrigation. From Kallanai 4000 cusec is released in Cauvery, 5501 Cusec on Vennar and 2513 cusec into Kallanai Canal.
Due to the uneven monsoon, the state is dependent on rainfall in the Mettur dam water catchment areas. Else situation may force us to sit for talks with Karnataka for more release of water. Cauvery water can be used for Samba crops till January last week. However, questions have started to arise on the reserved water levels in Mettur dam.
In grave situation, if Karnataka didn’t accept the water release farmers are forced to depend on the Monsoon rains; else crop failure is evident during the final stages of the crop season before harvest. The state government will need to Karnataka to release the 4 TMC water if the rainfall fails.
Karnataka having more than 80 percent of water in Krishna Raja Sagar dam, the state government must act steadfastly to initiate talks with Karnataka.  If mettur is opened for this season, then for Kuruvai, we are forced to depend on Karnataka’s water release.
Every year Tamilnadu gets its share of water when the dams in Karnataka start to overflow. If Karnataka delays the water release, farmers in the region are forced to drop the Kuruvai cultivation.
Water can pass into the irrigation canals only if more than 6000 cusec is released. Water release is calculated based on three decade old depth levels. However, due to over quarrying of sand from the river of upto 5 feet, river water is unable to reach the mouth of irrigation canals. 

Moreover, 70 percent of embankment is weak due to the illegal brick kilns along the river bed. The PWD is not willing to take any risk in release the actual capacity of water due to the weak embankments. With river water not reaching the farmer, they are forced to operate their pumpset resulting in imminent power failure, says Swamimalai Vimalanathan, President Cauvery Delta Farmers Association.

Water is needed till June 15 after which the harvest season will start resulting low water usage. With current water levels we can assure that there is sufficient water for Samba and Thalladi, says Ashokan, PWD engineer.
The monsoon failure and uneven water release to the fields has led to excessive weed growth and increasing rat menace. Farmers are worried the sharp dip in harvest, the excessive weed growth and rat menace has created havoc in farmlands especially in Tharagampadi. Some farmers in the region has reported 70 percent loss of harvest. Moreover, the existing supply can be utilised till the Samba and Thalladi. For further water supply we need to depend on Karnataka claims, Farmers Federation General Secretary Aarupathy Kalyanam.
Karnataka Water

According to the Cauvery water Tribunal, Water released from June to December is 193.59TMC, but only 183.15 TMC was released. Even the water released till date is from the excessive spill over due to monsoon rains.

Source: The New Indian Express Thanjavur


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