Plea for check-dams and farm ponds to augment groundwater

The district administration has been urged to implement Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme for the benefit of farmers and farm labour to mitigate the impact of drought.

Addressing the monthly farmers’ grievance redressal meeting here on Friday, the president of Madurai-Theni Districts Farmers’ Association, M. Pandian, said that the government had given the go-ahead to take up agricultural activities such as land preparation under the rural job guarantee scheme.

Farmers and agricultural labourers could be employed to work on the lands of small and marginal farmers and of those ryots belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. “If farmers are employed to work on farm land, they will show more interest and execute the work,” he said.

He said the depleting groundwater table was causing concern for farmers as 48,856 wells used for lift irrigation had been affected. The Department of Agricultural Engineering should be asked to create facilities such as check-dams and farm ponds to augment groundwater.

Efforts should be taken to tap run off water from National Highways, State Highways and rural roads. Water collected from these roads could be let into the defunct wells to improve the groundwater table, he suggested.

Officials should conduct a village-wise survey of the quality of groundwater so as to chart a plan to avert a possible drinking water crisis during the ensuing summer, Mr. Pandian said. Another farmer, Rajamanickam, wanted the Block Development Officers to make surprise checks to monitor implementation of the rural employment guarantee scheme.

Chellakannu of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam urged that compensation should not be confined to farmers of 21,519 acres who had cultivated crops. It should be extended to all farmers and farm hands to mitigate their plight. “Or else, they cannot survive. Even the survival of cattle has become a challenge,” he said.

Another farmer, K. Devarajan, wanted the administration to prepare a transparent action plan for cutting of cane for crushing to avoid irregularities. He alleged that a private sugar mill was allowed to draw water from the Vaigai dam even as the people were worried about their drinking water requirement. The drought period should be used to repair channels, and for desilting tanks, he said.

One of the farmers urged the government to supply fodder for cattle with 50 per cent subsidy to prevent distress sale of milch animals. The compensation announced by the government should not be restricted only to paddy, but also to other crops such as mango and coconut as they too were affected.

Responding to the farmers’ suggestions, Collector Anshul Mishra asked the officials to send replies to all the queries raised by farmers before they were put up to him. He asked the Public Works Department officials to keep the farmers informed about the tanks taken up for desilting. “You inform them about the criteria of selection of the tanks,” he said.

PWD Assistant Engineer C.P. Mohan Kumar said that the State government had allocated Rs. 2.25 crore under the Traditional Waterbody scheme for renovation of four tanks. Works on strengthening bunds, renovating sluices, repairing weirs and lining of field channels would be taken up in Sithalangudi, Vairavanatham, Melakkal and Kulamangalam tanks, he said.