Madurai

Dry spell returns to catchment areas, worse days are ahead

Portending trouble: Gadana dam in the foothills of Western Ghats in Tirunelveli district has water only up to 42 feet against its maximum capacity of 85 feet.

Portending trouble: Gadana dam in the foothills of Western Ghats in Tirunelveli district has water only up to 42 feet against its maximum capacity of 85 feet.   | Photo Credit: A_SHAIKMOHIDEEN;A_SHAIKMOHIDEEN

Farmers not ready to start ‘kar’ paddy cultivation as storage level in dams is low

With dry spell returning to catchment areas of major reservoirs to dash the hope that South-west monsoon would bail out southern districts from the acute drinking water crisis, water managers have kept their fingers crossed as drinking water supply could worsen.

When the monsoon started on June 1 in Kerala as predicted, it rekindled the hope that timely rains along the Western Ghats would bail out farmers who had suffered huge loss last year due to monsoon failure and water managers who were struggling to sustain a decent supply.

Water level in dams that had fallen below 20 feet mark increased to 35 feet. However, hopes waned a week later as there was only drizzle in the catchment areas to result in meagre influx of water into the dams.

The farmers, who would have prepared nurseries by this time to start ‘kar’ season paddy cultivation, are not ready to take a risk since the storage level in the dams is far from satisfactory.

The continuing dry spell in the catchment areas of Papanasam and Manimuthar dams reinforces agriculturists’ worst fears.

In other words, all the 11 dams in the district collectively have 713 million cubic feet (5.20%) of water against the maximum capacity of 13,765 mcft.

All the 2,518 irrigation tanks – 1,221 systemised tanks and 1,297 non-systemised tanks – are dry.

“We’ve suffered unprecedented loss in the last ‘kar’ and ‘pisanam’ seasons due to monsoon failure. Even as the storage level in the reservoirs is rapidly falling, the influx of water into the dams is very meagre and there is no sign of torrential rainfall along the Western Ghats. Hence, we cannot take the risk of going in for yet another paddy season,” says N. Muruganathan, a farmer from Tirunelveli.

While the farmers have desisted from agricultural operations, TWAD Board officials, who have the task of ensuring decent supply of drinking water to the residents living in a few thousand urban and rural local bodies in three southern districts, are really worried.

“After two successive monsoons belied last year, we’re facing the third monsoon failure in a row. We have a Herculean task of ensuring drinking water supply till September last or until North-east monsoon sets in. Since the dams have precarious storage level now, we cannot sustain drinking water supply and hence the worst days are ahead,” said a senior TWAD Board official here.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 1:24:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/dry-spell-returns-to-catchment-areas-worse-days-are-ahead/article19121026.ece

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