The Mettur Dam may not get heavy inflow with monsoon playing truant Pointing to the poor storage of the dam, a senior official of the Public Works Department says this is why the department is not able to spare water for the time being.

The sight of the Cauvery river in full flow during ‘Aadi Perukku’, a festival to celebrate the life-giving properties of water on the 18th day of the Tamil month, “Aadi,” falling on August 2, is unlikely to be seen this time.

At present, the authorities are releasing only bare minimum – 1,200 cubic feet per second (cusecs) – from the Mettur dam, the State’s important reservoir across the Cauvery, to meet the requirements of drinking water and industry. There is no indication of the dam receiving heavy inflow with the southwest monsoon continuing to play truant over the river’s catchment in Karnataka.

On Sunday morning, the dam’s storage was about 36.8 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) [capacity: 93.4 tmc ft] with an inflow of 344 cusecs. The water level stood at 75 ft (full level: 120 ft) As of now, the State hardly received one tmc ft of its share of 42.76 tmc ft prescribed by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in its interim award for the entire month of July.

Pointing to the poor storage of the dam, a senior official of the Public Works Department says this is why the department is not able to spare water for the time being.

Direct sowing

But, what should be concerning farmers in the central districts is that the PWD is contemplating opening the dam for irrigation only in the middle of September. This will be to enable the farmers to go in for direct sowing for the Samba crop.

In the last 10 years, only once the authorities resorted to the release of water for irrigation in September. In 2002, the dam was opened on September 6 when the level was around 67 ft and the storage 30 tmc ft.

Given the existing storage, a maximum of 27 tmc ft can be set apart for irrigation, after giving allowance of five tmc ft for dead storage. The remaining five tmc ft is essential for drinking water and other purposes, says the official. If the release begins by September middle, this can last till mid-October, by which the onset of northeast monsoon may take place. The usual date of arrival of the northeast monsoon is October 20 with plus or minus seven days.

However, S. Ranganathan, general secretary of the Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association, is hopeful that the agricultural community will not be forced to go in for direct sowing for Samba. If there are heavy rains in the catchment of the Kabini which is in Kerala, the Mettur dam will get substantial flows.

At the same time, he recalls the 1987 drought when the concept of direct sowing was experimented successfully by Y. Sul Karunai of Madappuram village near Thiruthuraipoondi, now an octogenarian. Since then, the idea attracted the attention of the farmers in times of acute water shortage. It is against this backdrop that the farming community of the delta can be called an ideal example of crisis managers, Mr Ranganathan opines.

He suggests that the crop variety – CR 1009 or Savitri – be used immediately under the present circumstances. The variety’s seeds can be left in situ and will remain, by and large, intact for 45 days. If there are rains even after one and a half months, they can spring up.

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