Poor storage in Periyar dam threatens standing crop

On the brink of crisis:Water storage in the Vaigai dam in Theni district is fast depleting.— Photo: G. Karthikeyan  

Poor storage in Periyar dam poses threat to farmers who have raised first crop in the double crop areas of Cumbum valley in Theni district. With water level slipping towards dead storage in Vaigai dam, Madurai city and southern districts face the prospects of an acute drinking water crisis. At the same time, minor showers in the Cumbum Valley a few days ago have kept farmers’ hopes alive.

Despite caution from PWD engineers, farmers in the valley have completed transplantation with the earlier discharge from Periyar dam meant for improving storage in the Vaigai dam.

With no rain in the catchments, water level has slipped to 109.1 feet in Periyar dam. Water could be drawn from the dam naturally only up to 104 feet. Already, PWD officials have scaled down the discharge to 200 cusecs from 250 cusecs, owing to poor storage. Further delay in monsoon would force officials to cut the discharge further. Inflow into Periyar dam was 20 cusecs.

Now, Vaigai dam has only 23.4 feet of water. Water cannot be drawn if the level touches 20 feet. The existing storage will meet drinking water needs for a short period only. The inflow was 131 cusecs and discharge from Vaigai dam was cut to 40 cusecs from 60 cusecs.

The poor storage in Vaigai dam has already forced Madurai Corporation to supply water once in four days. The increased number of water tankers moving in the city is only an indication of the grave water situation.

While the first crop of paddy in 45,000 acres of double crop area in Madurai and Dindigul districts remained a non-starter with no water release from Vaigai dam, the second crop is also hanging in a balance. Under normal condition, water should be released for second crop of double crop area and 85,000 acres of single crop area in Madurai by September 15. However, even after one month there is no sign of storage improving. Madurai city received good rainfall on two days in the recent past.

All efforts taken by the PWD to improve the storage in Vaigai dam went in vein owing to rampant illegal tapping along Periyar River between Gudalur and Palanichettipatti. Joint efforts taken by PWD, revenue and police officials did not stop illegal tapping. Not even 10 per cent of water released from Periyar dam reached Vaigai dam till now. The entire discharge from Periyar dam was utilised by farmers in the valley and resulted in depletion of storage in Vaigai dam.

Negligible storage

In Virudhunagar district, the storage position of dams, under Gundar basin, is almost negligible. In fact, Kovilar, Kolwarpatti and Sasthakoil dams have reported nil storage. Dams like Pilavakkal Periyar and Vembakottai have only dead storage. But Anaikuttam, Kullursandhai and Irukkangudi dams have more than 15 per cent storage.

An official of Agriculture department said that Virudhunagar district received water for irrigation only under north-east monsoon, which was now delayed. “With most of the agriculture lands being rain-fed, small farmers have met with crop loss,” claimed Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam district president A. Vijayamurugan. Though the district had received a couple of spells of good rainfall, Mr. Vijayamurugan was worried about the poor upkeep of tanks.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 2:29:35 PM |

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