Today's Paper

Drought stalks 14 districts

Chennai July 26. The spectre of drought looms large over Tamil Nadu with at least 14 districts reeling under crop failure and acute drinking water shortage.

Cultivation of short-term kuruvai has come to a near-standstill in most parts as the storage in reservoirs has dismally dipped to less than a quarter of their total capacity.

The Collectors of the drought-hit districts are flooding the Government with pleas for a total grant of at least Rs. 200 crores to tide over the water crisis. But the Government, which has released only about Rs. 55.9 crores so far, is expected to petition the Centre for additional funds particularly for the delta districts, where kuruvai cultivation could not be taken up because of Karnataka refusal to release Cauvery water.

In the southern districts too, water taps remain dry in most households as authorities in Madurai, Dindigul, Sivaganga, Ramanathapuram, Erode, Namakkal and Karur towns are unable to maintain regular supplies.

For the first time in the past couple of decades, the normally rain-rich Kanyakumari district presents a parched picture and paddy on 11,000 hectares may wither if irrigation supplies of 125 tmcft are stopped.

At Vedasandur in Dindigul district, farm labourers are selling their cattle to slaughter houses, and migrating to north Tamil Nadu for construction work.

Hundreds of acres of sugarcane crop and coconut groves have begun to wither owing to severe drought conditions in Dindigul district, which received only 105.4 mm rainfall _ 40 per cent below normal. In Coimbatore district, three lakhs out of the 182 lakh coconut trees have been affected.

The lower Bhavani reservoir, lifeline of Erode district irrigating two lakh acres, has only 1.6 tmcft of water against its full capacity of 32 tmcft.

In Dharmapuri, mainstay of mango crops in the State, groves are wilting under heat and 2,347 tanks catering for 19,779 hectares have turned dry.

The situation is equally grim in Tiruchi, Perambalur, Karur and Pudukottai districts, where the truant monsoon has virtually ruled out kuruvai cultivation.

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