Clearing of silt, construction of sand vent can give it lease of life

Set in sylvan environment, the scenic Ponnaniyaru dam in the hilly Kadavur region of Karur district is wallowing in neglect over the past few decades. When there has been intense talk on conserving rainwater and frugal water management, a reservoir constructed to serve farmers of two districts is craving attention. The dam needs to be cleared of silt and structurally altered to have a sand vent and buses must be operated to the dam site to promote tourism.

Situated around 60 km from Tiruchi and 65 km from Karur, the dam is nestled in the gorge between Perumal Malai on the north and Semmalai on the south. The unique feature of the dam, with stark similarities to Mullaperiyar dam, is that while the catchment area is situated in Karur district, the aycut is wholly in Mugavanur panchayat, Maniyarampatti, Periyaanaikarapatti and Manpaththai in Tiruchi district.

Conceived in the late 1960s, the actual construction of the dam commenced in 1970 and was completed four years later at a cost of around Rs.1 crore. The catchment area is spread over 33.60 square miles and the registered aycut is put at 2,100 acres though that got expanded later. The dam is 247 metres long and rises to a height of 51 metres with two huge sluices to have a combined storage capacity of 120 million cubic feet.

Rain water harvested in the monsoon and that too in the Kadavur region is the main source of water for the dam. This apart, a couple of rivulets bolster the inflow during rain season.

Even as it served the interests of farmers, the dam was also sought to be developed as a picnic spot by the district administration perhaps in response to the desire of having a good picnic spot in a district devoid of entertainment value.

A couple of years back the district administration spent a few lakh rupees to develop the park that was thrown open to the public with much fanfare.

However, both the dam and the recreation park have been enduring neglect for years now. Primarily the dam is not serving the purpose for which it was built. The reservoir must be cleared of silt completely and the technical glitch in having sand vent to prevent silt accumulation must be addressed. Also efforts must be made to harness the full capacity of the reservoir under the counsel of experienced structural engineers, admit PWD officials. Of the dam’s 51 feet height, at least 20 feet would be covered with silt, sources aver.

Again steps must be taken to foster inland fishing that was once thriving here to provide livelihood to fisherfolk living in the vicinity. Once earning more than a handful, they have been living in penury for many years now. Likewise Transport Minister V. Senthil Balaji could arrange to operate buses touching the dam site that is situated around three km from Manaparai-Kulithalai highway, to promote tourism activities.

The park could be saved if decked up immediately and proper watch and ward staff must be posted there permanently, urge locals who long to see the dam have a fresh lease of life and serve the people of both Karur and Tiruchi districts for more years to come.

Keywords: Ponnaniyaru dam