Paddy cultivation affected in 45,000 acres of land in Chittur

Failure on the part of the Water Resources Department to repair the Moolathara regulator-cum-bridge that breached on November 8, 2009, has affected paddy cultivation in 45,000 acres of land in Chittur taluk in the district. The Moolathara regulator is an important component of the inter-State Parambikulam Aliyar Project (PAP) that provides irrigation water to Chittur taluk. The regulator breached owing to the release of a huge quantity of water from the Aliyar Dam of the PAP following heavy rain in Tamil Nadu.

The ‘guide wall', constructed at a cost of Rs.25 lakh as a temporary measure for distribution of water for irrigation through the Right Bank Canal of Moolathara, also suffered a leak in the floods last year. The ‘guide wall' was constructed in anticipation of immediate repair of the breached regulator, said Sudheer Padikkal, Deputy Director of Joint Water Regulator Board, PAP. If the guide wall is damaged, the entire water distribution system of Chittur irrigation project would be affected, he said.

Since the breached regulator was not reconstructed, there is no way now to control the flood water and the excess water released from Aliyar which comes directly to Moolathara, he said.

Asked about the delay in repairing the Moolathara Dam, Chief Engineer of Water Resources Department, Kozhikode, V.K. Mahanudevan said the Irrigation Design Research Board (IDRB) had not yet provided the design for the new structure. Once we receive the design, work would start immediately, he said.

K. Krishnankutty, a leading farmer and former MLA of Chittur, said the apathy on the part of the government and the Water Resources Department was costing farmers dear.

He said the State had lost at least three times the 7.25 TMC feet water that Kerala received annually from PAP for the Chitturpuzha irrigation scheme. He said owing to delay in repairing the regulator, Kerala's share of water released from the Aliyar Dam under the PAP agreement could not be stored in Meenkara and Chulliyar Dams, and check dams for distribution to Chittur. This has come as a huge loss to the farmers in the last three paddy cultivating seasons.

The alleged neglect on the part of the authorities concerned would affect the food security of the State. It also comes at a time when the Agriculture Department's efforts to boost paddy cultivation have made encouraging results in the district, as it produces nearly half the total paddy in Kerala, said Muthalamthode Mani, President, Desheeya Karshaka Samajam.

He said the dam was breached as its bed level was unscientifically raised during 1994-95 by 60 to 70 cm to provide water to the Right Bank Canal, which is one metre above the Left Bank Canal. Owing to this, only two out of the 13 shutters worked to allow overflow of water in the wake of heavy rain and flood.

After the breach in Moolthara dam, the government had appointed an expert committee headed by P. Lathika, Chief Engineer of Water Resources Department, to go into the causes of the breach of the right bank canal and suggest measures to prevent such incidents in future.

She told The Hindu over phone that the expert committee had submitted its report within a month of the breach of the dam in 2009 and had suggested short- and long-term measures.