185 tanks have either been encroached upon or have become useless as their inlet channels have disappeared

While several tanks in water-starved Perambalur district are already dead, whatever sources available to supply water to the tanks and rivers are also gradually being rendered impotent, thanks to realtors. This is happening pretty close to the district headquarters itself, laments Rajachidambaram, State general secretary of Tamilaga Vivasayigal Sangham.

N. Selladurai, district secretary of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangham, points out that the district had once upon a time 185 tanks and most of them have been either encroached upon or have become useless because the “varathu kalvai”” (inlet channels) have vanished. Now, 67 per cent of the cultivable area in the district is rain-fed.

The Koneri is one of the oldest rivers of the region for which, whenever it rains, water used to flow from Perambalur and Esanai through small channels (on either side of the Perambalur-Athur road) for decades together. These channels, measuring hardly five to six feet in width, are running to a distance of eight km. With real estate becoming extremely lucrative in Permabalur during the past decade, land on either side of the Perambalur- Athur road has been purchased by the realtors. Though these channels are government property, there have been attempts to close them at various points.

If these channels were to be totally closed, there would be no way for the water to flow if it were to rain heavily. “While the entire water will go waste, the Koneri river won’t get any water too,” local residents point out. Mr. Rajachidambaram said that he had taken up this issue with Collector Darez Ahmed while Mr. Selladurai said that he had brought it to the notice of the district administration at a farmers’ grievances day.

They said “tank irrigation was considered one of the most important systems in the olden days and the villagers themselves used to take care of the tanks by deepening them and strengthening their bunds, and also attending to their sluices. This system called “kudimaramathu” has now disappeared.”

Explaining the major tank irrigation system in the district, they said that the flow from Pachamalai first used to reach Ladapuram tank, and then on to Kurumbalur tank, Sencheri tank, Aranarai tank, Perambalur Vellanthangi Amman tank, and ultimately Thuraimangalm tank. Even Perambalur town had a tank called Puliyakulam and there was a channel named George Vaikal which was feeding it. “Now while only a portion of it survives, the channel has become a virtual drain.” Many of these tanks have also become drains.

According to Mr. Selladurai, there are two other major reasons for tanks becoming useless. In order to provide supplementary income for the panchayats, they were allowed to raise karuvel within the tanks.

When these trees are cut, the thorns of these trees were left in the tanks themselves which resulted in their growth once again thus consuming substantial space. Besides, the directive that the farmers should not remove silt (vandal) from tanks has resulted in gradual filling up of the tanks by this silt thus reducing the space for water.

They point out that apart from encroachers various departments of the State government are responsible for the loss of a number of tanks in urban areas. They have been constructing buildings there only because these tanks do not have any water.

“How will these tanks get water when there are no inlet channels,” they wonder.

They appealed to the district administration to save at least the few channels that survive by removing encroachments and warning those constructing buildings in the vicinity of these channels to avoid dumping debris in them.

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