Total ayacut of these channels is over 2 lakh acres; banana, sugarcane, paddy, turmeric, coconut, major crops

In the hue and cry over the failure of monsoon and its impact on Mettur dam and kuruvai and samba crops in the delta region, the farmers here are worried that the State government has lost sight of the standing crops in about 1.50 lakh acres in the 17-channel area between Mettur dam and Grand Anicut.

While the total ayacut of these channels is over two lakh acres, Uyyakkondan Vaikal alone has an ayacut of over 23,000 acres.

These ayacuts are spread over a number of taluks including Paramathi-Velur, Gobichettipalayam, Sathyamangalam, Bhavani, Erode, Karur, Krishnarayapuram, Kulithalai, Srirangam, Manachanallur, Tiruchi, Lalgudi, Ariyalur, and Musiri.

With the release of water from Mettur dam being stopped following serious fall in storage, and Karnataka refusing to part with any water during the past more than a fortnight despite the direction of the Cauvery Monitoring Committee, the samba crop in delta region was the first victim.

“It is the crops in the 17-channel area that would be the next victim,” laments Puliyur A.Nagarajan, vice president, agriculturists’ wing, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee.

“The State government has not come out with any policy initiatives to help us out (if the crops were to wither) as it did in the case of delta ryots,” he adds.

“We were assured of water supply for irrigation through these riverine channels throughout the year as early as 1838 by J.R.Brown, Collector of Trichinopoly,” points out Mahadanapuram Rajaram, working president, Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association.

“All these ayacuts are triple-crop (muppogam) areas and that’s why they were assured of round-the-year irrigation. Even the dates of staggered closure for repairs and maintenance have been notified by the British Collector,” points out N.Natarajan, former superintending engineer, PWD, and a member of the Cauvery Family. “The system depending on these 17 channels has been functioning well for long and not a drop of water was wasted,” he asserts. These farmers have been traditionally raising annual crops such as banana, sugarcane, turmeric, betel vines, coconut, oil palm, and paddy. This year, while sugarcane is said to have been raised in about one lakh acres, banana has been raised in at least about 40,000 acres.

According to farmers, most of these ayacuts have rarely been dependent on Mettur dam release because they have “open source”. Rivers such as Bhavani, Noyyal, and Amaravathi, which are perennial, and a number of other smaller rivers joined the Cauvery between Mettur and Upper Anicut and they were the original feeders to these channels. Now Bhavani, Noyyal, and Amaravathi are unable to contribute much to the Cauvery. Besides, the lift irrigation societies are drawing water from the Cauvery even during “non-mettur season”.

Hence, the demand of the ayacutdars of the 17 channels is that their legal right for water throughout the year should be recognised. “We should not be treated like country cousins of delta farmers”. Besides, they plead that at least 3,000 cusecs should be released from the Mettur Dam instead of the current 500 cusecs so that it would reach at least Upper Anicut and feed these channels.

However, according to official sources, the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal has categorically said that first priority would be accorded only to “food security” of the State – meaning the delta region – where paddy is the only crop and which has more than 12 lakh acres of normal paddy coverage . When there is hardly any storage in Mettur dam for irrigation and all that the government now releasing is only for drinking water purposes, it would be virtually impossible to pay heed to the 17-channel area farmers, they clarified.