Even as the government released water from Periyar dam for irrigation on June 1, a majority of the farmers in Cumbum valley feel reluctant to raise nurseries fearing that the happenings of 2013 may repeat this year as well, thanks to the poor start of southwest monsoon in Kerala and low storage in the dam.
In August last year, PWD officials stopped release of water for irrigation owing to sharp depletion of storage in the dam and monsoon failure. “We don’t want to burn our fingers again because we need to shell out at least Rs.20,000 per acre to raise nurseries and complete transplantation,” the farmers said.
Farmers having alternative water sources like borewells or open wells have started raising nurseries with available dam water. Nurseries were raised up to Uthapuram channel.
However, illegal tapping delayed water reaching the tail-end areas.
The situation turned worse as the officials recently decided to draw 50 cusecs from the total 200 cusecs discharged from the dam for irrigation purpose, to maintain drinking water supply.
Farmers demanded the officials to draw only 400 cusecs to meet drinking water needs while maintaining the supply for irrigation undisturbed.
A meeting convened by PWD officials with farmers at Uthamapalayam to settle the issue on Saturday did not yield any result.
When the officials ruled out withdrawal of large quantum of water from Periyar dam because of poor storage and advised farmers to use water judiciously, the farmers refused to oblige.
Later, the matter was brought to the knowledge of Collector K.S. Palanisamy who ordered that top priority should be given to drinking water supply.
Meanwhile, the PWD officials asked how they could wait for rains to meet the drinking water needs when the southern districts were reeling under water crisis.
The farmers are now pinning their hopes on improvement in rainfall in Kerala.
Water was released to irrigate 14,707 acres for the first crop in the double-crop areas of Cumbum valley on June 1 even as the combined credit was far below 4,000 mcft.
Last year, crops on 6,000 acres were saved in the first cropping season, but those on 10,000 acres withered away in the second season due to non-availability of water.