Tuesday, Sep 16, 2003
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As the combined storage position in Karnataka reservoirs is not significant, the neighbouring State will not release water on its own. Moreover, with the southwest monsoon on its last lap, heavy rain in catchment areas of Cauvery is unlikely in the current season. So the only hope for farmers is an intervention by the Prime Minister, A.B.Vajpayee, according to farmers' associations. They urged the Prime Minister to convene a meeting of the Cauvery River Authority at the earliest and direct Karnataka to release water as per a distress-sharing formula arrived at a recent meeting of the monitoring committee. That alone would help the delta farmers to go for samba cultivation, they say.
Except in the Krishnaraja Sagar reservior, the storage position in all other Karnataka reservoirs was satisfactory. But the State was not ready to release water to Tamil Nadu as it wanted to keep the storage as reserve to meet its future requirement at the cost of the delta farmers, the farmers said.
As per the interim award of the Cauvery Water Tribunal, the State was entitled to 122.30 tmcft till date. But the receipts so far were only 24.65 tmcft, leaving a deficit of about 97.67 tmcft. What the State demanded now was collateral sharing of available water in Karnataka to help the delta farmers to take up samba cultivation, which is due now.
As samba was a long-term crop, at least 18,000 cusecs (1.5 tmcft) had to be released from the Mettur reservoir everyday for 45 days. Only then water would reach the tail-end areas, where the groundwater level was low due to salinity. Such a heavy release was possible only when the storage position in the reservoir was about 60 tmcft. So any hasty decision to open the reservoir now would only result in wasting the storage built drop by drop over the last one month.
The farmers said they already lost four successive crops in the last two years, either due to inadequate water release or non-opening of the reservoir. During kuruvai, cultivation was possible only on 35,000 hectares, against the normal coverage of 2.07 lakh hectares.
As things stand, the possibility of cultivating samba also looked bleak, which was normally covered in about 5.36 lakh hectares, including 1.77 lakh hectares under late samba. Time is running out for the farmers, as they should have started samba cultivation by now.
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