“Many single crop areas will become double cropping ones”

Several farmers' associations of the Cumbum valley on Thursday hailed the Empowered Committee report on the Mullaperiyar dam.

“Today is Thai Pongal for us,” rejoiced the farmers, welcoming the committee's conclusion that the dam is structurally and hydrologically safe and Tamil Nadu can raise the water level from 136 to 142 feet after carrying out repairs.

The committee submitted its report to the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The increase in storage level will benefit farmers in Theni, Dindigul, Madurai, Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram districts. Farmers in tail-end areas are the happiest lot as they will be rid of the turn system, which is haunting them every year before harvesting.

Chinnamanur Farmers' Association president S.M.R. Ramasubrmaniam said that farmers had to abandon many perennial crops owing to water shortage. Betel leaf cultivation area had shrunk to 15 acres from 300 acres at Chinnamnur as water supply was stopped after paddy harvest.

The cultivation was expected to gain momentum once the storage level was raised. With no farm activity, many farmers had migrated to Tirupur for daily wages, he claimed.

Progressive farmer in Cumbum O.R. Narayanan said that the drinking water shortage experienced by many villages in summer would be solved if the level was raised.

Farmer Shoukar Ali of Uthamapalayam said that if the level rose was raised to 142 feet, the area under cultivation would expand. Ultimately, food production would go up. Many single crop areas in the district would turn double cropping ones.

Five District Farmers' Association president K.M. Abbas, who welcomed the report, said that many farmers, who had shifted to long-term crops by giving up paddy cultivation owing to shortage of water, would take up paddy cultivation again. Even agriculturists in Melur and up to Kallandiri in Madurai and other southern districts would benefit.

Many farmers urged Kerala to cooperate with Tamil Nadu in undertaking residual repair and maintenance work on the dam.