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Prolonged dry spell leaves delta farmers in a fix

G. Sathyamoorthi
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Centre urged to ensure 40 tmcft water from Karnataka

A few spells of moderate rain in the next few weeks supplemented by supply from the Mettur dam can save the standing samba crop.— Photo: B. Velankanni Raj
A few spells of moderate rain in the next few weeks supplemented by supply from the Mettur dam can save the standing samba crop.— Photo: B. Velankanni Raj

With a prolonged dry spell in the past fortnight after the lashing that the Nilam cyclone has inflicted, the delta farmers are once again at the mercy of Rain God.

Only a few spells of moderate rain in the next few weeks supplemented by supply from the Mettur dam can save the standing samba crops in lakhs of acres, asserts Mannargudi S. Ranganathan, general secretary of the Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association.

Arupathi P. Kalyanam, general secretary, Federation of the Farmers’ Associations of Delta Districts, pleads that the Central Government should ensure supply of at least 40 tmcft of water from Karnataka as the delta would require water up to the middle of February.

Mr. Ranganathan wonders “what is the basis for Cauvery Monitoring Committee (CMC) directing Karnataka to release only 4.81 tmcft from November 16 to 30. When the whole world knows the storage of Mettur Dam, what is the need for secrecy regarding the availability of water in Karnataka reservoirs?” Lamenting that even the CMC has not come out with accurate details, he requested it to “make a dash to Karnataka to physically verify the storage before deciding on the quantum of distress sharing.”

Besides, if there is distress sharing, the formula should be transparent, he demands.

Planting is still going on in some parts of the delta “which is quite disturbing as such crops would require water at least for 90 to 95 days.”

Pointing out that the water management for the directly-sown crops and for the transplanted crops are different, he wonders how the authorities are going to provide water to the standing crops in lakhs of acres with Mettur Dam having hardly 26 tmcft. With such a meagre storage, it won’t be possible to supply even for a fortnight, he added.

Fully endorsing the view that only a few spells of moderate rain, at least once in 15 days, can save the standing crops, Mr. Kalyanam says that the maximum that the crops would be able to withstand would be 100 mm rainfall in a day. Anything more than that would spell ruin.

He asserts that the attempt to save the crops by applying fertilizers would not be efficacious. Even after that the yield would be 30 per cent to 50 per cent only.

He is of the firm opinion that the CMC, which has directed Karnataka to release 4.81 tmcft for the second half of November as against the monthly prescription of 16.05 tmcft, will not recommend more than five tmcft for December as the Cauvery River Waters Dispute Tribunal has recommended only 10.37 tmcft for the month. For January, the tribunal’s prescription itself is only 2.51 tmcft. “Hence, what we would get is a very meagre quantum. So, it is imperative for Tamil Nadu Government to insist on Karnataka making up the shortfall of 52 tmcft”, he contends.

Besides, he demands that the 12-hour three-phase power supply that the State Government promised to farmers should be ensured to save at least 20 per cent to 25 per cent of the crops raised using pumpsets.

Meanwhile, Puliyur R. Nagarajan, vice president of the Agriculturists’ Wing of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, has urged Karnataka to release water immediately to ensure the riparian rights of the lower State. The contention of Karnataka that it has storage only for drinking purposes cannot be accepted, he observed.


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