“Storage can last only for nine more days of irrigation”

The storage in the Vaigai dam can last only for nine more days for irrigation.

This is the shocking message the Public Works Department officials have conveyed to the representatives of farmers of 1.50 lakh acres of ayacut in the three southern districts.

“If we need to store adequate quantity of water in the Vaigai dam to take care of drinking water needs of Madurai city till June 2013, then irrigation is possible only for the next nine days,” the officials told the farmers at a meeting here on Tuesday.

If the dry spell, both in the catchment areas and the plains, continued and release of water for irrigation is stopped as suggested by the PWD officials, this irrigation season would get the dubious distinction of having released water for the shortest period in the recent times.

For, release of water to raise paddy seedlings in the double crop area in Madurai and Dindigul districts and the single crop area of Madurai and Sivaganga districts began only on November 9 and can continue only till November 28. A PWD engineer said that out of the 2,898 mcft of storage in the Vaigai dam, at least 1,300 mcft has to be stored for the drinking water purpose of Madurai city and other towns till the next monsoon sets in Kerala by June 1, 2013.

“We did release the water for irrigation only with the anticipation and hope of good rain during November. Last year, same time the Vaigai river was in spate and flood water reached the sea after all tanks had storage up to their brim. But, this year the monsoon failed and the situation has worsened,” an official said. He, however, said the final call on continuing or stopping the water release would be taken only by the end of the month.

“We have history of North East monsoon lashing till December end,” he added.

Farmers out of fear over water shortage had raised nursery in around 5,000 acres, R. Arul Prakasam, Periyar Basin Planning Committee member, who participated in the meeting, said. He wondered how the farmers, who have invested huge money on land preparation and on seeds, would be compensated for their loss.

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