ANDHRA PRADESH

Cong. fears decision will hit ryots badly

ANANTAPUR DEC. 7. The District Congress Committee has expressed serious concern over the stoppage of water release to the distributaries under the Tungabhadra HLC system in the district four days ahead of the last date assured without any notice to the farmers. The party feared that lack of water to the crop at a crucial stage would entail a loss of about Rs. 100 crores.

Addressing a press conference here today, the DCC president, A. Venkatarami Reddy, the party legislators, P. Venugopal Reddy and Y. Sivarami Reddy, and presidents of two distributary committees warned that the "ill-advised" decision of HLC engineers might even lead to unrest among the ayacutdars and drive the to take the extreme step.

Mr. Venugopal Reddy said the Tungabhadra Board had allocated 18.67 tmcft water to the HLC system even in a lean rain year. Following requests to the Major Irrigation Minister and a subsequent meeting with officials, the last date of water release to the distributaries was extended from November 30 to December 10.

However, the HLC engineers of Anantapur had stopped the water release to the distributaries on December 6, citing that they had received such orders from the Engineer-in-Chief. They had stated that water was being impounded directly in Mid-Pennar and Penna Ahobilam reservoirs to fill them with 2 tmcft and 1 tmcft water respectively for drinking water purposes.

He explained that even the allocated water to the branch canals under the HLC was not released so far. Giving an example, he stated that HLMC was due about 0.5 tmcft water and GBC about 0.3 tmcft water.

Crops like paddy, sunflower, Bengal gram and sorghum were cultivated in about 72,000 acres as irrigated and irrigated-dry crops. The crops were in critical stage of seed formation and at least one more wetting was most crucial to get the yield, he noted.

Unwise thinking of the engineers and the district administration had delayed the water release till September 5 initially, he alleged. The farmers received another jolt when the release was stopped between October 4 and 24 due to a major breach on the canal near Hospet, he said.

He sought to know the intention of the engineers to save the water for drinking purposes at the cost of standing crops. He mentioned that about 1.85 tmcft in Mid-Pennar and 0.60 tmcft in Penna Ahobilam reservoir was already there against the usual practice of storing 0.50 tmcft and 0.60 tmcft respectively for drinking water purposes.

Mr. Venugopal Reddy said such a unilateral decision might lead to a situation like what had happened in Kanekal in August. The DCC leaders demanded restoration of water release immediately to save the standing crops and to prevent huge investment loss.

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