The tank near Thuvakudi gets water through the sluices of Velakulam

Ernakulam tank — a sprawling tank near Thuvakudi — has been facing the onslaught of encroachments for the past few decades, leaving in lurch a cluster of farmers who had stopped cultivating samba crop for the past several years for want of irrigational facility.

The Ernakulam tank with an original extent of 67 acres had been a source of assured irrigational facility for Ernakulam village.

Originally the tank, together with its supply channels from the Velakulam, was under the maintenance of a particular community.

The maintenance facilitated farmers to cultivate single crop samba.

In course of time, about 17 acres had been encroached, shrinking area of the tank to 50 acres. The tank gets water supply only through the sluices of Velakulam.

Farmers of Ernakulam say that their fields had been divided in to three major zones — the upper reach, the middle, and the tail-end area.

Every year, they had to struggle to get water from the Velakulam.

The poor realisation at Velakulam often resulted in the failure of the crop.

Farmers in the tail-end ended the irrigational activity about 15 years ago in the middle reach a decade ago while those in the upper reach had stopped raising samba six years ago.

The absence of agricultural activity for the past several years has come in handy for the encroachers. “We want to restore the original area of the tank. To start with, we have made efforts to prevent any further onslaught of encroachments on the tank,” says G. Ravikumar, a farmer of Ernakulam village who had given up cultivation about a decade ago.

Encroachments had been brisk in the northern part of the tank.

The modus operandi followed is to set up a row of stone pillars together with fence wires. “It indicates that some pucca structure will be built in course of time,” say farmers.

The tank does not receive any irrigation waters but is blessed with laterite soil.

The encroachments are in a low-lying area but the encroachers dig out the red laterite soil from the interior of the tank and use it for levelling and elevating the encroached site.

Farmers point out that the proximity of the tank together with the barren agricultural fields in the Ernakulam village to the industrial area of Thuvakudi has been an attraction for real estate dealers.

“A few real estate dealers try to lure farmers by offering a huge price for the paddy fields. Restoration of agricultural activity will go a long way in checking any real estate business in the area,” says K. Parimanam, another farmer of Ernakulam.

“Simply because agricultural activity has come to a standstill, the village and tank should not become a booty for encroachers,” says P. Murugesan, another farmer.

They say the only solution to the problem is to ensure a joint effort by the municipal, Public Works Department, and the revenue authorities.

Mr. Ravikumar says that an assured supply of waters to the tank will mitigate the problem.

For this, the Public Works Department should set up a direct supply channel from the Kattalai Kalvai.

As an interim arrangement, the Revenue Department should conduct a survey of the extent of the tank and set up boundary stones.

They seek the cooperation of the Thuvakudi municipality in protecting the tank in the larger interest of farmers.