The Tamil Nadu government on Monday, sought to fend off criticism over the lack of water in tail-end areas of the Cauvery delta by blaming the 'hilly terrain' in the region. Farmers groups and activists have however slammed the government, alleging that corruption and rampant sand mining in the delta region were responsible for the shortage of water, despite the fact Mettur dam is seeing abundant water.
Close to 1,70,000 cusecs of water has been released from Mettur dam into the Cauvery this year, but farmers in Karur, Mannargudi, Tiruvarur, Cuddalore and Nagapattinam state that they have not received enough for irrigation purposes. They allege that water is simply draining into the Bay of Bengal due to the government's unpreparedness. The Public Works Department however denied it and said it is normal for the water to take 75 days to reach tail-end areas.
“It takes three days for Cauvery water to reach Kallanai dam from Mettur dam. From Kallanai dam, water is let into 19 canals in Namakkal, Karur and Tiruchy districts, and water is distributed into Cauvery, Kallanai and Vennaru for cultivation in Delta districts,” said the PWD in a press release.
It further added that three major channels of Cauvery River such as Puthiya Kattalai, Uyyakondan and Pullampatti canals have a length of 134 km, 87 km and 90 km respectively. “Among them Puthiya Kattalai channel has small rocks and it will take 75 days for water to reach the tail-end areas. On the way, the water has to recharge 75 ponds. Similarly, Uyyakondan and Pullampatti channels had to fill 36 and 28 lakes, respectively, and water will take 60 and 45 days respectively to reach the tail-end areas," stated the release.
"It is not possible for it to take so long for the water to reach. There are multiple reasons for the lack of water in the tail-end areas. Broadly they are – sand mining, lack of desiltation and mismanagement of water," says President of Federation of Farmers' Association PK Deivasigamani.
"The government can just allow for 22,000 cusecs of water to be released and it can fill the entire delta's demand. They are however not doing it because sand miners require water levels to be low to carry out their activity. 30% of Tamil Nadu farmers have not got water to irrigate their crops yet because of the government giving into the sand mafia," he alleges.
PR Pandian, President of the Tamil Nadu All Farmers' Association says there is no water to irrigate the five acres of land he owns in Tiruvarur district and claims corruption is the main cause.
"For the last six years, they have done nothing to desilt the river beds and have pocketed the money meant for this maintenance work. So the water is not flowing properly. Most of it is not going into canals and tanks due to lack of desilting," he alleges. "They have gotten away with it so far, but this time around because there is more water than they expected, they have been caught.”
So what is the solution to this?
"They have to desilt the tanks and canals, otherwise all the farmer will be forced to depend on the rains instead of using the water which they must actually get access to," he says.
The PWD Department however refutes the allegations.
"Cauvery water has reached most tail-end areas. Only a little bit of the water has not reached yet. Even there the delay is because of the hilly terrain," an official at the department says. "The claims that desiltation is not done is untrue."