Waiting for an elusive monsoon may prove futile, fear farmers

Water release may be delayed till July end; contingency plans worked out "Even a week's sky outburst will change the whole storage position and agricultural operations could begin in 10 days."

S. Sundar

MADURAI: Even a month after the schedule for releasing water from the Vaigai dam to irrigate double-crop area, storage in both Periyar and Vaigai reservoirs remains unpromising.

The Southwest monsoon, that brought a flash flood in the catchment areas of Periyar dam in mid-June last year and facilitated water release on July 2, remains dormant without bringing any appreciable quantity of rainfall till date.

While water could be released for the 45,000 acres of agricultural land in Madurai and Dindigul districts on or after June 1 on the storage reaching 4,000 mcft, the combined storage is yet to cross the halfway mark. The storage is just 1,887 mcft as against 4,898 mcft last year.

The sudden downpour recorded in the range of 52 mm to 97 mm between June 13 and 18 last year made all the difference bringing in copious inflow of over 10,000 cusecs of water on a single day. The inflow was not less than 5,000 cusecs in that particular week helping commencement of agricultural operations.

However, this year the maximum rainfall has been 61 mm and that too only for a single day and the inflow has not gone beyond 800 cusecs.

Last year scenario

The one-month delay in releasing water last year proved dear for farmers in some areas when the matured crop got submerged as the crop-span extended till the commencement of Northeast monsoon. June and July accounts for 65 per cent of the rainfall during the Southwest monsoon.

The Executive Engineer of Periyar-Vaigai Basin Circle, K. Pandikaruppanan, is hopeful of a good rainfall in July. He says water release might be delayed till July end. "We want to have two crops this year too," he said.

"Even a week's sky outburst will change the whole storage position and agricultural operations could begin in 10-days," says an agriculture expert.

However, a difficult aspect this season is lack of rainfall in the plains, which is not favouring farmers even to go for alternate crops.

The only option before water managers, in case of failure of rain by July-end, is to release water for both the double-crop and single-crop areas during September.

Till then whatever little storage is possible could be used for early release to benefit 1.5 lakh acres as and when the Northeast monsoon sets in.

Water could be released for the single crop area when the combined storage touched 6,000 mcft.

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