With the inflow crossing one lakh cusecs (cubic feet per second) on Saturday evening, water level in the Mettur dam was inching closer to the Full Reservoir Level (FRL) of 120 feet.

By Saturday midnight or early hours of Sunday, the FRL would be attained, going by the present inflow rate. The previous time the dam reached FRL was on December 2, 2010.

On Saturday, the level stood at more than 115 ft and the storage level was more than 83 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft), against the full capacity of 93 tmc ft.

Also, 170 MW of power generation began on Saturday, against its installed capacity of 250 MW. Officials told The Hindu that the generation would be increased if the quantum of discharge went up in the coming days. From the initial discharge of 12,000 cusecs on Friday, it rose to 18,000 cusecs on Saturday. Official said it would increase to 25,000 cusecs by midnight.

Public Works Department officials pointed out that the inflow was only 40,815 cusecs when water was released on Friday for samba cultivation. But, it kept increasing since then. People living along the Cauvery were asked to move to safer places.

A senior official in Chennai said “as and when the water level reaches 120 ft, the entire inflow will be let out. It is expected that by 11 a.m. on Sunday, the quantum of discharge will be about one lakh cusecs.” The official added that Collectors of Salem, Erode, Tiruchi, Karur,Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam, all lying on the Cauvery river, had been sounded about the emerging situation, apart from Cuddalore.

Farmers’ apprehension

A.V.Ragunathan reports from Cuddalore:

Farmers of the delta region have voiced concern over the heavy discharge from Karanataka dams that has the potential to cause flash floods and breach the banks of major rivers, such as the Kollidam, the Vellar and the Old Kollidam.

“With the inflow exceeding one lakh cusecs, the Mettur dam would soon surplus. In such an eventuality, Public Works Department officials might let out excess quantum of water,” said K.V.Kannan, vice-president of the Cauvey Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association.

Mr. Kannan appealed to the officials not to let the 2005 flood situation recur. In that year when the catchment areas in Karnataka registered torrential rainfall, its government released three lakh cusecs of water from the dams there.

Even after the water level was up to the brim, outflow was maintained at 3 lakh cusecs, resulting in flash floods downstream. It caused wide breaches in the banks of the Kollidam at Vazhkkai near Papanasam and minor breaches in many places in the downstream of the Lower Anicut in Nagapattinam. With thousands of acres of standing crops getting inundated, farmers suffered heavy crop and property losses. Mr Kannan said that such a situation could be averted only by adopting proper water management practices.

“It calls for streamlining the discharge from Mettur dam and not wait till the reservoir surpluses. It could be done by steadily stepping up the release from the present level of 18,000 cusecs to 50,000 cusecs,” Mr Kannan added.

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