He points out that the worst year in the history of delta irrigation was 1987 when the Mettur dam was opened only on November 13, situation is not so bad at present

Even as hopes of a good samba crop blossom in delta region thanks to copious showers in Wyanad and Karnataka during the past few days, farmers urge the State government to “hasten slowly” with regard to opening of the Mettur dam for irrigation.

“It looks samba is a distinct possibility in 12 lakh acres in the delta and another four lakh acres in Tiruchi, Pudukottai and Karur district,” S. Ranganathan, general secretary, Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association, told The Hindu.

“The situation requires very careful handling by the State government,” he says.

He points out that the worst year in the history of delta irrigation was 1987 when the Mettur dam was opened only on November 13. The situation is not so bad at present.

“I am confident that the monsoon is well set over Coorg (the Cauvery catchment area in Karnataka) because it has been raining heavily there for the past four— five days. Similarly, the rains in Wyanad, the catchment area of the Kabini dam, one of the reservoirs that feed the Mettur dam directly, have also been quite good.”

As 12,000 cubic feet per second (cusecs) has been released from the Kabini on Wednesday, Mr. Ranganathan is certain that the Stanley Reservoir at Mettur would get 15,000-20,000 cusecs from that reservoir during the next one week.

“We may be able to realise at least eight thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of water by then.”

He admits that the State government might be itching to open the Mettur dam as it would lead to considerable hydel power generation, about 250 MW, in the backdrop of power shortage haunting the State. “But it should consider opening the dam only when the level touches at least 90 ft against its full level of 120 ft. (On Friday its level was around 74 ft).”

As several areas in the delta region have received some showers during the past few days, he is certain that a number of farmers would have started ploughing for the samba crop. “By August 20, they would be ready for farm operations. The State government should help the farmers go in for direct sowing because even in 1987 we had reasonable returns. In areas where there are pump sets, it should help them go in for mechanised planting.”

Free diesel

For this, he has appealed to the State government to provide diesel free of cost to the small and marginal farmers and at subsidised price for others.

While hoping that the North East Monsoon will set in around October 15, he wants the State to keep the samba crop alive for two months (August and September) by “judicious management” of available water resources.

Using the turn system, it should provide at least “one wetting a week” in the old delta area of about nine lakh acres and once in two days in the “new delta area” of about 3.5 lakh acres, he pleads.

Mr. Ranganathan, who points out that Karnataka might not be able to use the water in its reservoirs fully because its paddy season is over, requests Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to prevail upon her Karnataka counterpart to let water in the Cauvery for successful cultivation of the samba.