Storage in the Mettur Dam is sufficient for no more than a fortnight, says Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association

With the storage in the Mettur Dam sufficient for delta irrigation for no more than a fortnight and the Karnataka government appearing determined to reject Tamil Nadu’s demand for release of more water, the Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association seems to have resigned itself to the fate.

The situation for raising samba crop has become very difficult, admits Mannargudi S. Ranganathan, general secretary of the association.

The total storage of the Mettur Dam at 4 p.m. on Thursday was 26.895 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) against the total capacity of 93.4 tmcft.

If the discharge of about 12,000 cusecs is maintained (which is equivalent to one tmcft), it may not be possible to release water beyond October-end unless there is substantial inflow thanks to the northeast monsoon, according to PWD sources.)

He is extremely unhappy that the Cauvery Monitoring Committee has not bothered to come out with the accurate figures regarding the availability of water in the Karnataka reservoirs.

Even if the Karnataka reservoirs had 50 per cent storage, they should have a minimum of 50-60 tmcft and should share it with Tamil Nadu, he contends.

“Now we are totally dependent on the northeast monsoon expected to set in any time now. We have virtually become a rain-fed area now. Hence, it is extremely dicey to predict how much samba crop could be saved depending only on the monsoon,” he adds.

Mr. Ranganathan says he is not prepared to go by the history of the northeast monsoon, which he believes is difficult to judge. “During October-December, there have been years when the delta had received as much as 700-800 mm rains. And during December alone, especially in the third week, it has rained to a level of 400 mm leading to flooding of the fields.”

The only silver lining is that the northeast monsoon has been quite consistently supportive of Tamil Nadu unlike the southwest monsoon which has been playing truant on and off.

According to him, immediately after the media cautioned the farming community that the southwest monsoon is deficient, some farmers chose to go in for direct sowing in the first or second week of August. “The condition of these crops is very good and they have not confronted much of weed problem as well.”

He estimates that direct sowing has been taken up at least in three lakh acres of which Tiruvarur district alone contributes two lakh acres.

About 1.5 lakh acres should have been covered by thaladi (the crop raised immediately after kuruvai) and this could also be saved because these areas have borewells and pumpsets. All that they require is adequate power.

An equal area could have been covered by the community nurseries and mechanically planted crop. However, I am not certain of the total area of samba which has been covered so far though we normally calculate it to be 16 lakh acres.”

Mr. Ranganathan expresses concern over the fate of the crops raised through nurseries as they would require a minimum of three centimetres of water. “This requires surface water and I am not sure whether that could be provided by rains”.

By October second week, transplanting for samba should have been over and the thaladi planting should be going on. But all these thumb rules have failed this year, he laments.