Staff Reporter

Shortage of drinking water in Theni district likely

THENI: With no rain in the catchments, the poor storage in the Periyar and Vaigai dams dashes hopes of farmers in the district, particularly in Cumbum valley, and signals shortage of drinking water not only within the district but also in neighbouring districts.

Water level in both the Periyar and Vaigai dams is causing much concern to the administration.

The Mullaperiyar river is the main drinking water sources for several municipalities and village panchayats in the district. Water level in the Periyar dam stood at 109 feet (permissible storage level 136 feet) on Friday. The storage was 755 mcft only.

Public Works Department engineers discharged 150 cusecs from the dam for drinking water supply recently. They drew water through the Iraichal bridge. That too was stopped now.

The Mullaperiyar river has over 45 drinking water supply wells on its riverbed. But municipalities, town panchayats and village panchayats could not utilise the discharge fully as some farmers tapped river water illegally to raise nurseries in the Cumbum valley, expecting rain soon.

Already, PWD engineers warned that such steps would not only attract punishment but force farmers to incur huge loss if there were delay in water release. They would suffer at the time of transplantation without water, they warned.

Water level in the Vaigai dam was just 27 feet (total height 71 feet) and the storage was 245 mcft.

Discharge from the dam was 41 cusecs to meet the drinking water needs of Madurai city and for Andipatti-Sedapatti drinking water scheme.

Residents of several villages on the banks of the Vaigai river between Varushanadu and Kadamalaigundu have been facing an acute drinking water crisis. The Vaigai riverbed on several stretches was completely dry.

Water was released for irrigation from the Periyar and Vaigai dams on June 1 last year. But it remained a distant dream now, said farmers. “Only rain god can save us. The PWD will talk about the release only when the storage level touches at least 112 feet.”

No rain in the catchments of Periyar dam was really a bad news for us, said farmers in the valley. But the southwest monsoon was well set in Kerala and several pockets have started receiving torrential showers.

Already, the PWD engineers had stopped discharge in March this year even before the commencement of harvesting in the valley as the water level stood at 108.9 feet.

Later, the level rose moderately, but did not improve much till now.