With drought like conditions prevailing across the delta, farmers and groups of workers employed under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) are busy digging about 600 farm ponds in eight panchayat unions in Tiruchi district.

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had ordered the creation of 15,000 farm ponds in eight districts in view of the drought like conditions. The farm ponds are being created in the lands of small and marginal, Adi Dravida and tribal farmers.

In Tiruchi district, 601 farm ponds have been sanctioned at a total expenditure of Rs.2.70 crore in the eight panchayat unions of Andhanallur, Manikandam, Manachanallur, Tiruverumbur, Lalgudi, Pullampadi, Musiri, and Thottiyam.

The works commenced in February and are underway in full swing now. So far, 232 ponds have already been created and work is underway on the remaining.

The project is being executed with 100 per cent labour component, as per the directions of the government, and beneficiaries under MNREGS are being deployed for digging the ponds. About 79,605 man days of work has been generated through the work.

The beneficiaries of farm ponds are identified by the Agriculture Department. These include 32 Adi Dravida farmers, and 192 small and five marginal farmers.

Apart from serving as permanent assets for farmers, the farm ponds are expected to help harvest rainwater and contribute to the improvement of water table so that farmers could take up cultivation.

Farmers could also take up fish breeding at the ponds when the ponds get water to supplement their income.

According to officials of the District Rural Development Agency, the farm pond scheme is to be extended to the other six unions in the district this year. Interested farmers can contact the DRDA office in Tiruchi or the offices of the respective panchayat unions, they said.

DRDA officials also disclosed that the allocation under the MNREGS for the district has been increased to Rs.223 crore from the Rs.175 crore sanctioned last year.

The State government has sanctioned Rs.33.12 crore for drought relief utilising which 24,974 farmers, who had suffered more than 50 per cent crop loss, have been given compensation.