Now, water issue between districts

P. Sudhakar

TIRUNELVELI: A deep sense of disappointment is brewing in Radhapuram taluk as the Public Works Department officials of neighbouring Kanyakumari district once again failed to release water from Pechiparai dam in the Radhapuram Channel to 52 bone-dry irrigation tanks.

When the then Chief Minister K. Kamaraj saw a huge quantity of floodwater discharged from the Pechiparai dam into the sea, he took steps to increase the height of the reservoir from 42 feet to 48 feet with the prime objective of taking the floodwater to Radhapuram taluk, a rain-shadow region of Tirunelveli district.

When this area experienced successive monsoon failures, the State Government issued an order in 1972 proclaiming that water from Pechiparai dam should be released in the 26.50 km-long Radhapuram Channel for irrigating nearly 17,000 acres, if the reservoir had a storage of 1,300 mcft on June 16 every year.

Protest in the offing

"But this Government Order was never honoured. Whenever the Radhapuram public and the MLA raised a banner of revolt, a meagre quantity is diverted into the Radhapuram Channel for a few days from Nilapaarai near Nagercoil. If 150-cft floodwater is released for few days to the 52 tanks, having cumulative storage level of 300 mcft, drinking water crisis in this region can be solved to a greater extent. Since the PWD officials of Kanyakumari district are in no mood to honour the GO, the people of Radhapuram taluk, particularly farmers, are coming together to commence a massive protest," a top revenue official here told The Hindu .

Though the cumulative storage of Pechiparai, Perunchaani, Chittar I and Chittar II reservoirs is 8,835 mcft, the quantity of floodwater let into the sea this year is over 14,000 mcft, which could have been diverted to Radhapuram, he said.

Flood carrier channel

Besides ensuring prompt release of water in Radhapuram Channel, people here expect that the government, in a bid to fulfil its earlier promise, should initiate immediate steps for construction of a flood carrier channel with a capacity of 500 cft from Thovaalai in Kanyakumari district to Radhapuram.

"Though this Rs.78.90-crore scheme was announced by the Chief Minister, no step has been taken so far for its implementation.

While the neighbouring district is not prepared to share floodwaters with a dry region, the water being wasted in Tamirabarani may be taken to Radhapuram if a channel is dug from Cheranmahadevi via Suviseshapuram, Aayankulampadugai and Aanaigudipadugai," suggests the Radhapuram MLA. M. Appavu, who is planning to lead an agitation to be held in front of the Kanyakumari district PWD office at Nagercoil on August 19.