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Dam across the Palar is not feasible: State officials

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T. Ramakrishnan

They arrived at the conclusion after a visit to the 'proposed site' in Andhra Pradesh

CHENNAI: The proposed dam across the Palar in Andhra Pradesh and the furore it has caused in Tamil Nadu may turn out to be "much ado about nothing."

At least this is the impression gathered by Tamil Nadu officials who visited the neighbouring State last week to study the situation, according to an official. The team's interaction with Andhra Pradesh officials indicated that the neighbouring State may not be pursuing any such proposal seriously.

Reports about Andhra Pradesh's plan to build a dam in the Kuppam area had prompted a strong reaction from political parties in Tamil Nadu. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa shot off a letter to her counterpart Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, urging him to give up the project

The Pattali Makkal Katchi, with its vote bank in the northern parts of the State, was among the first to oppose the proposal. It has also planned an agitation.

The Palar, originating from the Nandi Hills in Karnataka, flows down to Tamil Nadu through Andhra Pradesh. Of its total length of 348 km, 93 km lies in Karnataka, 33 km in Andhra Pradesh and 222 km in Tamil Nadu. The river enters Tamil Nadu near Vaniyambadi and joins the sea at Vayalur, 100 km from Chennai.

One reason for the alarm is that the river, though it does not have regular flow, is a source of water for several towns and smaller cities because of its sandy strata. Many southern suburbs of Chennai depend on this "invisible river."

In their case, it is the contribution of the Cheyyar, a tributary of the Palar, that sustains the supply.

The people fear that any dam upstream will impound the flow, which will have a bearing on the groundwater table.

There is a checkdam at Ganesapuram, near Kuppam, in Chitoor district of Andhra Pradesh. Going by the reports, that is where the proposed dam, with a capacity of two thousand million cubic feet (tmcft), is to come up.

But, the officials who visited the site feel that such a huge dam is not feasible there. Given the fact that the river has flows once in five years, no administration will go in for such a dam.

It is because of the heavy rain in some catchment areas that there is surface flow in the river. Ganesapuram also presents a picture of water. But, there is nothing to suggest that any preliminary work has been taken up.

A group of organisations, including the United Forum of Nanganallur Welfare Associations and the Kanchipuram district Exnora, has appealed to the State Government issue a status paper on the river.

PMK stir in Kanchi

The Pattali Makkal Katchi organised a demonstration at Kancheepuram to protest the Andhra Pradesh Government's proposal to construct the a dam and to urge the State Government to convene an all-party meeting to discuss the issue.

Party president G.K. Mani said the proposal would not only affect agricultural operations and drinking water needs of Vellore, Kancheepuram, Tiruvannamalai districts but also industrial activity in Kancheepuram district.

Apart from fulfilling the drinking water requirements of several hamlets and municipalities in these three districts, the Palar riverbed serves as a dependable source whenever drinking water shortage arises in Chennai.

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