“With the southwest monsoon setting in over Kerala on time, the time is ideal for the State to release water in the Cauvery to meet the drinking water needs of several parched districts,” observes M. Natarajan, former superintending engineer, PWD, and author of two books on the Cauvery.
Presently an advisor to the ‘Cauvery Family’, an inter-State forum of farmers in the river basin areas, he says there is every possibility that the Mettur dam will start getting some inflows soon. “The State government should release at least, 2,000 cusecs to quench the thirst of the population served by about 50 drinking water schemes between Mettur and Grand Anicut. This quantum need not be from the Mettur Reservoir alone. It could be from Bhavanisagar and Amaravati also and the rains, especially in Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri regions, are likely to be of considerable help in this regard.”
According to official sources, more than 500 million litres a day (MLD) is drawn from the Cauvery for these combined water schemes, major ones being Ramanathapuram, Tiruchi, Salem, and Pudukottai.
Mahadanapuram V. Rajaram, working president of the Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association, and a resident of the village on the banks of the Cauvery, laments that he has never witnessed a situation as bad as the current one in his more than seven decades of living there. “Even the borewells sunk along the banks of the Cauvery are not much of help. Our priority now is not kuruvai or samba, but drinking water,” he asserts.
Official sources said even the functioning of the Tamil Nadu Newsprints and Papers Ltd., Pugalur, is affected because of the very poor flow in the Cauvery. The company has been drawing substantial water from the Cauvery.
Mr. Natarajan, who admits that the storage in the Mettur Dam is extraordinarily poor now (about 18 ft against the full level of 120 ft and the storage is less than four thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) against the total 93.4 tmcft). “All that the Mettur reservoir now has is only silt.”
He also admits that storage in Karnataka reservoirs is equally poor. At the same time, he points out that the Kabini reservoir, whose catchment is in Kerala, used to be the first among Karnataka reservoirs to become full because its capacity is just 16 tmcft.
“But its total annual inflow is 97 tmcft. Thus the reservoir would be able to store only one sixth of the total inflow. However, Karnataka has chosen to pump as much as 28 tmcft to two tanks – Sagare and Dhoddagare – and it has already expanded its ayacut to 4.47 lakh acres.
In case of heavy rains in catchment areas of the Kabini, it would be impossible for Karnataka to tap the entire quantum which will be beneficial to Tamil Nadu,” he adds. Besides, the seepage from the ayacut of Krishnaraja Sagar Dam, which is calculated as 15 per cent of its capacity of 45 tmcft, and rains in other places in the 64 km stretch between Billigundulu and Palar, near the Mettur Reservoir, would be very helpful to Tamil Nadu.
Mr. Natarajan says that If 2,000 cusecs were to be released in the Cauvery, apart from quenching the thirst of several lakhs of people, that could also help the TNPL.
It could fill the trenches created by the indiscriminate sand quarrying and help replenish the aquifers all along the Cauvery bank.
At the same time, it might be able to save the standing banana crop, especially in the 17-channel area.