Row over ownership of dams

The row over the ownership of the Parambikulam, Thoonakadavu, and Peruvaripallam dams has made residents of Chittur taluk in Palakkad district apprehensive. The dams are located in the taluk having large acreage under paddy. Hitherto, there had been no major dispute over the ownership of the dams or water-sharing between Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Though a hartal was observed in the taluk on Friday in protest against the ‘failure’ of the government in retaining the ownership of the dams, the majority of people here say the controversy is unwarranted and will not serve any purpose to the farm community.

The farmers had never expressed anguish over sharing the Parambikulam-Aliyar waters with water-scarce areas in western Tamil Nadu, even when the Mullaperiyar issue cast a strain on the ties between the two States.

“Even during March-April this year, Tamil Nadu released more water than the quantity prescribed in the sharing-agreement from the Aliyar dam for the rice fields of Chittur as requested by the Kerala government. Even the acute water scarcity during peak summer gets addressed by the Aliyar waters. It was never ever a matter of dispute,” says N. Swaminathan, a farmer from Chittur.

Many farmers blamed the controversy on differences between senior officials in the Water Resources Department. The farmers in Chittur taluk depend on the three dams for irrigation in 45,000 acres. As per the agreement, Kerala has to receive 7.25 tmcft of water through the Chittur river and 12.3 tmcft through the Chalakudy river every year from the three dams, with the share increasing in years of excess rain.

Meanwhile, National Farmers’ Forum general secretary Muthalamcode Mani says the agreement must be redrafted keeping in view the water scarcity in the region.

“Now, Kerala farmers are begging for their due share of water. Our governments have failed to protect our interest. Now, Tamil Nadu is gaining even the ownership of the dams,” he says.

Kerala Karshaka Sanghom district secretary P.K. Sudhakaran says the UDF government was responsible for the present situation.

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