Irrigation experts want water to be released from the Tungabhadra dam in Hospet in the first week of June instead of July. This will help farmers and also ensure better utilisation of water in the reservoir, they have said.

K.M. Rudraswamy, retired Chief Engineer, Tungabhadra Board, and P. Govindulu, former Superintending Engineer, Public Works Department, said the water-level in the reservoir had almost reached 1,590 ft. Water could be released into the left bank main canal and the low-level canal on the right bank. This would help farmers in many ways. In addition, the early release would enhance the utilisation of water in the reservoir as its storage capacity had come down considerably owing to the accumulation of silt over the years, they said.

They told The Hindu that early release of water, latest by June 1 instead of July 10, would help early commencement of farming in the command area. It would also prevent overlapping of the kharif cropping season into rabi and reduce the demand for water to save the standing crop at the time of harvest. “We have been reiterating this, but to no avail,” Mr. Rudraswamy said.

The Tungabhadra dam is an inter-State project catering to the drinking water and irrigation needs of Bellary, Koppal and Raichur districts in Karnataka, and Kurnool, Kadapa and Anantapur districts of Andhra Pradesh.

Though the storage (original) capacity is 134 tmcft, the utilisation has been fixed at 212 tmcft because the reservoir gets filled twice a year — during monsoon and post-monsoon. Optimum utilisation, however, has not been achieved as the storage capacity has come down from 134 tmcft to 100 tmcft owing to accumulation of silt over the years.

Once the dam gets filled, around 200 to 300 tmcft of water, including the share of both Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh as allocated by the Bachawat tribunal, gets wasted as it is released into the river. As has been the practice, the Irrigation Consultative Committee (ICC) decides — based on the assessment of the water stored and the anticipated storage — the day of release of water, which is usually around July 10.

On Saturday, the water-level was 1,587 ft against the full-reservoir level of 1,633 ft and the storage was around 8 tmcft.

Mr. Govindulu scoffed at doubts being expressed by officials that the reservoir would not get filled this year, and said that except for a couple of years (2001, 2002 and 2003), the reservoir has had surplus water during the last decade.

“Official statistics show that the reservoir has had enough water for one crop during the kharif season. Therefore, water should be released early, at least by June 1, so that farmers are benefited and the utilisation goes up, especially in the wake of governments not having taken any steps to recoup the loss of legitimate share of water going waste by flowing in the river,” Mr. Govindulu said.

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