Farmers want more water, but residents fear inundation

Agriculturists in several villages are worried that irrigation tanks are not filling up despite rain, while those living around lakes are haunted by the 2015 floods

Updated - November 06, 2017 07:42 am IST

Published - November 06, 2017 01:02 am IST - CHENNAI/KANCHEEPURAM

 The incessant rain has resulted in waterlogging at agriculture fields at Amanambakkam near Thirukazhukundram.

The incessant rain has resulted in waterlogging at agriculture fields at Amanambakkam near Thirukazhukundram.

Whenever monsoon rain fills up the waterbodies in the city’s suburbs, there arises a conflict between the residents living around the lakes, who fear flooding, and the farmers whose livelihood depends on the storage.

Last week, bunds of several lakes were broken, including the Selaiyur lake, whose waters irrigate farmlands in Thiruvanchery and Madambakkam and the Rajakilpakkam lake from where water runs to Chembakkam and then to Nanmangalam, where agriculture activities are carried out.

A large area of ayacut in Nanmangalam and Nemilichery has been affected as the bunds were breached and water wasted. Farmers say that if the authorities had desilted the lake and strengthened the bunds, more water could have been saved in two lakes adjoining Selaiyur.

In Chengalpet area, farmers of several villages are worried that their irrigation tanks are not filling up despite rain in the catchment areas and in the chain of tanks that empty into them. Parasuraman, a farmer of P.V. Kalathur, said that a team of farmers were camping at Neenjal Maduvu flood water regulator that gets water from Kolavai lake and from areas including Kancheepuram, Ponneri, Paalur and Venkatavaram.

Road roko

While farmers want the water to be stored in the Maduvu, residents of Mahalakshmi Nagar, Rajaji Nagar, Anna Nagar and surrounding residential areas staged a road roko demanding that its shutters be opened to ensure quick draining of rainwater stagnated in their localities.

These settlements that came up near the flood regulator a few years ago are in a low-lying area and hence get inundated even with moderate rain or due to excess water flow from the lakes located upstream of Thenneri Kalvai. These colonies were badly affected and residents had to be rescued in 2015 floods when there was a heavy flow in the kalvai clubbed with the breaching of several lakes and ponds along the canal.

This year too, there is quite a bit of water in these colonies and residents are afraid it might be a repeat of the 2015 floods.

Water conservationist V. Srinivasan said that with changing weather patterns, farmers in areas that depend on tanks for irrigation hope the tanks will hold maximum water for at least one harvest.

“The residents in many areas are those who have bought land at cheap rates. This situation shows the government’s inability to understand the housing crisis. Even some of the LIG housing areas promoted by the government are on water catchment areas,” he charges.

“In such a situation, poorer sections of society are in conflict with each other. This conflict has to be understood in its totality. Merely advocating that they be removed won’t make things better. In Vengaivasal, for instance, when encroachments had to be removed, the District Collector shifted them to a place near Agaram. Now agricultural activities have resumed there. A wholistic view has to be taken by the revenue department,” he says.

“Most localities that are now flooded have been formed on channels leading into or outside tanks, or are on catchment areas of tanks where they should not be allowed to live,” says V. Suresh, National General Secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties.

“The government should map the encroachments and let the communities themselves decide as to what should be done if it wants to balance the need for water security. The present government is in an unholy rush to regularise irregularly constructed houses. This nexus between land sharks, corrupt officials and politicians is harming both gullible people and farmers,” Mr. Suresh said.

(With inputs from T. Madhavan in Tambaram)

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