Maintenance work of the canals in the district would start within a week, the Public Works Department authorities told farmers on Friday. Raising the issue at the monthly farmers’ grievances’ meeting here, Koundampatti R. Subramani, deputy secretary of the Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association, said that monsoon had started showering its bounty and the Cauvery would start getting considerable flows soon.

He wondered how the water would flow to the delta region if the canals in Tiruchi district, including the 17 channels, were not cleaned of silt. “Only if the Secretary to the PWD were to be approached by the district administration, this could be done.” He was unhappy to note that when huge funds had been allocated for removing silt from the canals in the delta region, nothing had been done with regard to the water bodies in Tiruchi district.

Rajachidambaram, State general secretary of the Tamilaga Vivasayigal Sangham, quoting the Tamil Nadu Minor Mineral Concession Rules 1959 pointed out that quarrying silt for domestic or agricultural purposes from the riverbeds was “free” and there was no need for getting any permission.

Admitting that quarrying for commercial purposes would lead to overexploitation, he said he did not have any objection to the district administration monitoring such quarrying. “When we have village administrative officers and the PWD, there is no need for any other official to certify taking silt from the ponds, tanks, and riverbeds. We can’t be running to the Department of Mines and Minerals for everything,” he said. He alleged that a farmer who had removed silt in his cart for agricultural purposes had been caught by the Revenue Department officials and fined to the tune of Rs. 25,000. He said that a circular in this regard had been sent to the Collector by the Agriculture Secretary.

P. Viswanathan, State president of the Tamil Nadu Eri Matrum Aatrupasana Vivasayigal Sangham, warned that permitting quarrying of silt without proper authorisation might lead to overexploitation and would become detrimental to the water bodies themselves. District Collector Jayashree Muralidharan, who was in the chair, admitted that using silt in the farm lands would be beneficial — removal of silt from water bodies would deepen them and help store more water and the silt would act as manure. However, she was concerned over the “commercial exploitation. But it is imperative to strike a balance,” she said.