Delivery services like Amazon and Ecom Express are a familiar sight on the roads within Kadaladi Block and so is the sight of women pushing their make-shift carts that can hold upto five pots to waterholes in their villages.
R. Banu, a resident of Sikkal panchayat Union, which is about 35 kms from the headquarters, Ramanathapuram, says, “We have everything except potable water.”
Almost every Monday, the grievance redressal meeting at Ramanathapuram Collectorate, sees women from this block coming with empty pots to submit petitions. When desperation sets in, they block the Ramanathapuram-Sayalkudi road hoping that their needs are met.
It was due to one such agitation that the district administration dug a pit about 15 feet deep in a bone dry tank that abuts the Aandichikulam village. With the groundwater slowly trickling in through the aquifer into the trench, the residents sometimes wait for an hour to draw a bucket of water.
Even at night under fading mobile lights, people wait to fill their pots. “The water will dry soon and we cannot dig deeper as it will turn saline,” says S. Murugesan, a villager.
The amount of water coming in through the Ramanathapuram combined (Cauvery) water supply scheme to Kadaladi and Kamuthi blocks has also decreased. V. Jeyakumar, a farmer, says that the overhead tank in the village, which is almost dilapidated, can hold only 5,000 litres of water. “We give water on turn-basis, and sometimes a family will get Cauvery water only once in 30 days,” he points out.
P. Poovathi, 60, standing near the bund of the tank, says there is only one pipe for every 15 houses. “With water supply almost nil in the pipeline, we are forced to come here”, she adds. “There are days when our children go to school without taking a bath,” says Ms Banu.
In some areas near Panivasal, villagers allege that though the Cauvery pipeline crosses their area, they have not been provided with water.
On Cauvery water, a government official says the onus is on the public. He pointed out that villagers were not just pilfering the water but are also damaging the pipeline leading to almost nil water reaching the tail-end areas in the block.
At Vallakulam village, Benazir Begum waits for her husband to close the gate at the well. In order to avoid the constant fight over water, the local jamaat has installed a gate near the well. The gate is open from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Households are allocated days on which they can take water, thus solving law and order issues, says M. Amjad Khan, a CPI (M) worker.
Other than waiting for rain to fill the water bodies, the district administration can rejuvenate the 65-km Koothangal Vaikaal that brings Vaigai water from the Big Tank in Ramanathapuram, says V. Mayilvahanan, district secretary of the State farmers association wing of the CPI (M). In 1956, when there was not much awareness on preserving water bodies, Mr. Mayilvahanan said that the government had given patta for the land through which Koothangal “Vaikaal” flows to six people in Kakur village.
“Now, the patta holders have agreed to give up their land. We have requested the administration to clear these encroachment before the monsoon sets in,” he said.
During the recent farmers’ grievance redressal meet, the Collector had agreed to take steps, Mr. Mayilvahanan added.
Water woes may soon become a thing of the past, says an official as schemes like a separate drinking water pipeline from Cauvery to Ramanathapuram are on the cards.
“The TWAD Board’s Karur Cauvery River Water Project which will be completed by February 2024, may also bring the much needed relief”, the official added.