Farmers of the delta region told a committee of experts from the Centre on Tuesday that they needed at least eight thousand million cubic feet of the Cauvery water for providing two to three more wettings to save the standing samba paddy crop.
The committee, formed on the direction of the Supreme Court to assess the position of the standing paddy crop in the delta, made a first-hand assessment of the situation during a day-long tour of Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam and Tiruchi districts on Tuesday.
The committee, comprising P.K. Saha, Deputy Commissioner (Crops), Union Ministry of Agriculture, K.S. Jacob and A. Mahendran, Chief Engineers, and Veerender Sharma, Superintending Engineer, Central Water Commission, inspected paddy fields and interacted with farmers across the delta.
T.S. Sridhar, State Commissioner for Revenue Administration, Sandeep Saxena, Agriculture Secretary, and Shiv Das Meena, Commissioner of Agriculture, accompanied the team. Earlier, the committee was briefed about the situation in the delta by officials in Tiruchi.
At Kovilpattu near Budalur, the team inspected the 136-day ADT 36 variety crop that was 105 days old now. Shajahan, a farmer, explained to the committee how he had bought water in tankers paying Rs.1,500 a trip to irrigate his crop. The committee also witnessed a field being irrigated with water brought in by a tanker at Royandur.
At Vadakadu Kovilur in Tiruvarur district, S. Ranganathan, secretary of Cauvery Delta Farmers Welfare Association, met the team and told them that crops on about 612 acres out of the 813 acres that was covered in Kovilur have been affected due to shortage of water. The two tmc of water to be released from Mettur Dam as directed by the Supreme Court may not be sufficient. “We require eight to ten tmc of water,” he said and requested the committee to make a recommendation to the effect.
At Meenambanallur in Keezhayur in Nagapattinam district, the team members sought information on the extent of water received so far and the water sources that were engaged during the period. Mr. Meena told the committee that farmers had solely relied on canal water to salvage the crop with the help of diesel pumps enabling the crops to survive so far.
The officials and farmers pointed out to dry canals that were used up to salvage the crops so far. There was no water for drinking purposes or livestock requirements in the dry water bodies. At Meenambanallur, the team inspected a 75-day crop with a maturity period of 105 days.
At Pirinjimoolai in Thalainayar block, the team was exposed to a CR-1009 variety field, where the 124 day-old crop required water to meet its maturity period of 155 days.
Plucking out a handful of partially bronzed tillers, the farmers pointed out that the tillers were evidently withering without water. The green blades with paddy grains that ought to hold 280 grains stood with barely 120 grains, said Kaveri Dhanapalan, of Cauvery Delta Farmers Welfare Protection Association. “The crops were under ventilation support and need water to survive.” The team members observed that the farmers' demands were ‘genuine’
In a brief interaction with The Hindu, Mr. Saha said transplantation was taken up late and the crops were at a stage where their growth required water.
Asked if they would make a bleak assessment, Mr.Saha said that if water was made available to the crops, they could be saved.
“We have seen the condition of the crop. We could understand how it has been affected due to water shortage. We will give our assessment in the report,” Mr. Mahendran told reporters.