Century-old Nandan Canal project in Villupuram remains a pipe dream

Lack of maintenance has resulted in thick overgrowth in the Nandan canal at Panamalai in Villupuram district

Lack of maintenance has resulted in thick overgrowth in the Nandan canal at Panamalai in Villupuram district   | Photo Credit: S. S. KUMAR


Neglect and lack of maintenance by the government over decades has led to the deterioration of this canal, and its retrieval project has remained on paper

It was once the lifeline of 120 villages in Villupuram and Tiruvannamalai districts through which it flowed. The 200-year-old Nandan Canal constructed during the British period, linking the two district,s has now deteriorated due to utter neglect and lack of maintenance by subsequent governments over the decades.

The Nandan Canal had a glorious past and is believed to originate from Thurinjalaru River in Tiruvannamalai district. The canal covers a distance of 35.86 km, snaking through 10.40 km in Tiruvannamalai district and 25.46 km in Villupuram district. It once ensured supply of water to 36 tanks including 22 tanks in Villupuram district.

The canal irrigated around 1,566 acres in Tiruvannamalai district and 5,032 acres in Villupuram district. However, the flow of water through the canal stopped after the Pallikonda Anicut in Tiruvannamalai district collapsed in 1886. Consequently, the canal has shrunk in size owing to encroachments on both sides.

The retrieval of the canal to ensure uninterrupted flow of water to the 36 tanks in the two districts remains a pipe dream for the last 133 years.

“Several governments in the State had made announcements for implementation of the Nandan Canal scheme. Although plans were drawn up to restore the canal during the previous Congress, DMK and AIADMK governments, no concrete action has been taken to save the lifeline, which is vital and a core part of the irrigation system in the two districts,” says R. Ramamoorthy, former MLA of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

The AIADMK government had sanctioned ₹14.5 crores for rejuvenating the canal in 2013. The State proposed to interlink Ponnaiyar River with Palar River through Cheyyar River at a cost of ₹250 crores for augmenting water supply to Nandan Canal. However, the proposal failed to take off after the Centre refused to give a ‘No Objection Certificate’ to the government. Inter-linking of rivers is beneficial and important for improving irrigation facilities, Mr. Ramamoorthy said.

There have been earlier efforts for the revival of the project: it was first raised by former Minister A. Govindasamy during the Congress regime in 1954. Mr. Govindasamy, a Vanniyar leader from the Tamil Nadu Toilers Party and elected from Vikravandi constituency continued to raise his voice for the implementation of the project during the successive governments headed by the DMK.

“Work on the rejuvenation of the canal began during the DMK regime headed by M. Karunanidhi which sanctioned ₹35 lakh for the project. Though funds were sanctioned in phases, the project failed to see the light of the day due to change in government and lack of political pressure,” said Anniyur Siva, a DMK functionary.

The canal has now shrunk in size and is on the brink of death due to rampant encroachments on both sides. The cost of retrieving the canal has now increased multi-fold and the Public Works Department estimates that about ₹100 crores is required to carry out maintenance work and retrieve the canal. Lack of maintenance over the years has resulted in wild growth and the canal is almost invisible at several places, Mr. Siva said.

The implementation of the Nandan Canal project was one of the poll promises of the AIADMK during the recent Vikravandi by-poll. Over 90% of the population in the constituency is agrarian and the government should expedite work on rejuvenating the canal at the earliest, he added.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 5:07:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/century-old-nandan-canal-project-in-villupuram-remains-a-pipe-dream/article30160327.ece

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