On Thursday owing to poor storage in dams

The Public Works Department (PWD) will stop releasing water from the Vaigai dam for irrigating 1.5 lakh acres of land in Dindigul, Madurai and Sivaganga districts on Thursday morning.

With only 20 days of irrigation possible since November 9, this irrigation season is the shortest ever duration of water released for paddy irrigation in the recent years. PWD officials had already cautioned the farmers that irrigation would not last beyond November 28, if it did not rain in the catchment areas, owing to the poor storage in the Periyar and Vaigai dams.

While the second season of irrigation begins in mid-September from Vaigai dam, it was not possible till November as the storage did not increase up to the expected level. However, farmers of both the double crop area (in Madurai and Dindigul districts) and the single crop area of Melur region and Sivaganga district fought for the water.

Despite the combined Periyar water storage in the Periyar and Vaigai dams not reaching the mandatory 6,000 mcft for commencing irrigation, the PWD officials released the water on November 9. The combined Periyar credit stood at 5,594 mcft then. The water release that reached 800 cusecs on day one, was maintained at 1,200 cusecs for the next five days and then on, the release was at the rate of 1,400 cusecs.

Neither the cyclone Nilam that brought copious rainfall to the northern districts in November first week, nor the recent depression in the Bay of Bengal that gave a good wet spell in the districts of Tirunelveli, Tuticorin and Kanyakumari, had any significant impact in the Periyar-Vaigai basin.

After waiting in vain for the last one week expecting the monsoon to favour the basin, the PWD officials decided to stop the irrigation in order to store water in the Vaigai dam to cater to the drinking water requirement of Madurai city and other habitats till the South West monsoon sets in June 2013.

Stating that not much area had been brought under irrigation, a PWD official said that they could implement their plan of supplying water only to the irrigated areas, since farmers of all the villages wanted to have their share of water. “They said that they will stock the water in their irrigation tanks to recharge the groundwater table in their areas,” the official said. They wanted the water at least to cater to the needs of the cattle and also to save the standing cash crops like plantain and sugarcane.

The officials had exhausted over 1,200 mcft of Periyar credit from the Vaigai dam for irrigation alone in the last 20 days. The present storage in Vaigai dam was 2,355 mcft.

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