Each passing day is now a literal nightmare for villagers living in TNâ€™s Cauvery Delta districts reeling under acute water scarcity. Except for few scattered backwaters, all other water bodies in Thiruvarur and Nagapattinam of the Cauvery delta have dried up.
And as if that was not bad enough, the ones that still have water in them contain salt.
Residents in many villages wait daily for the water tankers to arrive -their only lifeline which does not turn up often. The tankers sometimes come at night, with each family allowed a maximum quota of two or three pots.
The salt-water drawn is used for bathing and washing clothes, and when things get real bad, even to cook food.
"We need at least one pot of water a day. They now come only once in a while to give two pots of water," laments Saroja -a villager- while speaking to The News Minute.
Severe drought has wracked the entire belt owing to Karnataka's refusal to release water, depletion of groundwater and acute rainfall deficit. Every year recounts the same water-scarce stories, but this time, it is the worst till date.
Shivamani, a farmer from Nagapattinam, tells how he sold his four cows to another farmer in Thanjavur, as they have no water to drink:
â€śWe get salt-water to drinkâ€¦.that too rarely. The poor livestockâ€¦.they canâ€™t even complain. With no water to meet their needs, I did not have much of a choice. I have no idea about what will happen, when summer reaches its peak.â€ť
Farmers Shivamani and Raj
Farmer Gangaraasan of Thiruvarur says he wasted money in drilling a bore-well that gave him no water: â€śI spent a lot of money drilling. Earlier, I used to get at least little water from the well, but nowadays, absolutely nothing. Many of the small farmers here have started to migrate.â€ť
There were some ponds in the villages of Nagapattinam which have never gone dry, but even these could not survive the relentless onslaught of the sun this season.
â€śPeople walk miles to fetch a little water. Wherever it is said that a pond has some water in it, all rush there,â€ť remarks Shiva of Nattirippu village.
Most of the farmers in these coastal districts live in shabby palm/coconut-frond roofed huts. Even if they wanted to build better homesteads, maintaining them would pose a huge problem because of the saline water.
â€śPoor farmers like us can afford to build a properly tiled-roof house only once in our lifetime. But we just cannot afford the subsequent cost of maintenance, as within a few years, the entire structure would be damaged here and there, because of the salt-water. The rich can manageâ€¦.not us,â€ť sighs Shivamani.
All of them believe that water-scarcity is the cause of all their problems. â€śWe live in extreme povertyâ€¦.no money to buy clothes or renovate our home. No one would buy our lands, even if we give it free of cost to them. All we want is to have pure water to drink all throughout the year. Without water, nothing can be sustainedâ€¦farming, livestockâ€¦.all just die out,â€ť rues Shivamani.
â€śSome ask why we donâ€™t opt for cultivation of crops other than Samba rice. But which crop would grow without water? Our problem is not ignorance, but lack of water,â€ť he reiterates.
A motley group of farmers trudging down to the seashore to wash their clothes may be easy to imagine, but is a sore sight in reality.
â€śWe need a permanent solution. Thousands of poor farmers and their families struggle here. We have never had it this bad in the last 150 years. It could be worse next year,â€ť opines Moorthy -leader of the Cauvery Delta Farmers Association.
"If the authorities donâ€™t come up with a solution real fast, Tamil Nadu will have no agriculture left. Farmers will become extinct. People will migrate to different states and opt for other work," he looks away.