Vital to utilise State’s share of Cauvery tribunal award

The Attappady Valley Irrigation Project languishes, though vital to utilise the State’s share of water awarded by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.

High hopes were floated when the State Budget for 2012-13 announced that the Rs.400-crore multipurpose project, on hold for three decades, would be revived to irrigate the Attappady Hills, supply drinking water in the tribal hamlets and generate power. The first irrigation project on the Bhavani basin will help tap four tmcft of the six tmcft awarded by the tribunal as Kerala’s share. The remaining two tmcft can be tapped from small projects proposed at Aralikonnam, Thudukki and so on, Water Resources Department officials say. The State will have to build the dam for the project across the Siruvani, a tributary of the Bhavani.

The block and the grama panchayats and political leaders had hailed the Budget announcement, but they are a disappointed lot now. The skeleton project staff at Agali remain idle. No official communication has been put out about the revival of the project, officials say.

Attappady block panchayat president M.R. Sathyan says the State spent Rs. 19.5 crore in the 1980s on constructing the base of the dam, a nine-km-long main canal and an office complex at Agali. As much as 750 acres of land was acquired at Venkkakadavu in Chittoor and 51 tribal families were displaced from their land.  But the project was abandoned after that, he says.

Agali grama panchayat president E.J. Antony says the project is a must for the water-starved Attappady Hills, part of which has become barren because of the destruction of forests in the 1960s and 1970s. The project will be a big boost to agriculture and help provide drinking water. Eswari Reshan, district panchayat member, says the large tracts of tribal land in Attappady cannot be cultivated without irrigation. The project will provide water to take up cultivation in large areas.

P.C. Baby, secretary, District Congress Committee, says the project, apart from providing irrigation, drinking water and producing power, can help promote tourism.

M. Sukumaran, president, Attappady Protection Committee, allege that Tamil Nadu had opposed the project from the very beginning in the name of the pending Cauvery dispute, but after the award by the tribunal, that State was making secret moves to scuttle the project.

Now the waters of the Bhavani and the Siruvani are flowing to Tamil Nadu, while vast areas of Attappady are facing desertification and an acute drinking water shortage.

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