Even as Andhra Pradesh has begun the process of raising the height of check dams on the Palar river, activists in neighbouring Tamil Nadu have raised an alarm. The 348-km-long Palar originates in Karnataka, passes through Andhra Pradesh and drains into the sea via Tamil Nadu.
On Monday, activists from Vellore district in Tamil Nadu discovered that workers had started raising the height of a check dam in neighbouring Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh.
Speaking to TNM, Ambalur Ashok of the Rivers of Ecology Committee in Vellore district, said, “The Palar is the only water resource for us. The catchment area in Andhra Pradesh is large. If they store all the water, then the next 200 km (of the river in this state) will become a desert. Initially, the height of the check dam was 7 feet, as of 2000. In 2005, Andhra Pradesh raised it to 14 feet. In 2014, they further raised it to 22 feet. Now they want to make it 40 feet. The Tamil Nadu government already knows all this but the response is slow and lazy.”
In November last year, around Rs 4,170 lakh was allocated by the Chandrababu Naidu-led Andhra government for “reconstruction and repairs” of 21 old check dams on the Palar river.
On Wednesday, DMK chief and Leader of the Opposition in Tamil Nadu, MK Stalin, issued a statement urging Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami to act on the issue and stop further construction.
Ashok further points out Tamil Nadu is the lower riparian state as per the 1892 agreement between the erstwhile Mysore and Madras governments. As per the Supreme Court’s verdict in February 2018 on the Cauvery river water dispute, Tamil Nadu’s consent is needed for Andhra to undertake construction along the river.
The river forms the lifeline for agriculture in the northern districts of Tamil Nadu. It went dry for nearly a decade and resumed flow in November 2015. In August last year, the Union Water Resources Ministry announced an ambitious river-linking project that would divert water from the Ponnaiyar river to the Palar. The Tamil Nadu government too has plans of its own to construct a check dam across the river. A check dam at a cost of Rs 32.5 crore is set to address rainwater harvesting as well as the intrusion of seawater towards the tail end of the river.
The Palar river originates in the Nandi Hills in Chikkaballapur district of Karnataka, where it flows for about 90 km before entering Andhra Pradesh at Kuppam town in Chittoor district. Flowing in Andhra for about 45 km, the river begins its longest course in Tamil Nadu from Vellore district. It traverses a distance of 225 km in the state, enabling agriculture in Vellore, Kancheepuram, Thiruvannamalai and Thiruvallur districts. It finally drains into the Bay of Bengal north of Chennai city.