The nearly 325-km-long canal network of the Pampa Irrigation Project (PIP) has turned out to be a boon to the people in the drought-hit hilly tracts and plains in the Pampa river basin spread across the Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha districts. A large number of wells situated even along the river banks have been turned dry in the scorching summer.

The water released from the PIP barrage at Maniyar near Chittar in the eastern hilly tracts of Pathanamthitta is the only solace to the hapless villagers in the water scarcity-hit downstream reaches up to Haripad in Alappuzha district.

“Our wells have been sufficiently recharged with the splendid flow in the canal since the past few weeks. Thanks to the PIP which was originally meant for irrigating the farm lands,’’ says Thomas P. Thomas, environmentalist from Nedumprayar, near Maramon.

Like Prof. Thomas, there are scores of others who pin their hopes on the PIP for satisfying their basic water needs during the summer months.

The PIP was commissioned in 1993 for irrigating nearly 21,135 ha of farmlands in Ranni, Kozhencherry and Thiruvalla taluks in Pathanamthitta district, Chengannur, Mavelikara, Karthikappaly, and Kayamkulam taluks in the Alappuzha district, utilising the tail race water of the Sabarigiri hydro-electric project.

The PIP has got a barrage with a full reservoir level of 34.62 metres, a 26-km-long main canal between Maniyar and Vazhakkunnam near Kozhencherry, left and right bank canals and its distributaries.

The tail race water of the Sabarigiri project collected in the PIP barrage at Maniyar is also utilised for power generation at two private mini hydro-electric projects at Maniyar and Allumkal.

Though paddy cultivation has been stopped in many parts of its ayacut owing to various reasons, the PIP continues to release water unfailingly into its canals during the six-month period from November to April.

Canals in disrepair

Lack of proper repair and maintenance has left the canals in bad shape along many reaches. Sources in the Water Resources Department attribute the disrepair of the canal to inadequate budget allocation. The budget allocation to the PIP for the current financial year was only Rs.3.4 crore, they said. Overflowing and seepage of canals leading to wastage of water is a common problem found along many stretches of the main canal and its branches. Talking to The Hindu , P.N. Sureshbabu, PIP Executive Engineer, said the Irrigation wing has been supplying water to the NTPC power plant at Kayamkulam for the past few days through a stream. Mr. Sureshbabu said the PIP could even supply water for irrigating the Ullittapuncha paddy land at Cheppad near Haripad, this year.

There were reports that lack of proper maintenance had affected the smooth functioning of the barrage shutters, especially during the monsoon season.

The Pampa Irrigation Project is addressing water needs of drought-hit villages in Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta districts.