As summer approaches, the water levels in Tamil Nadu’s major dams – both irrigation and drinking water – are being closely monitored. While the water levels in Chennai’s drinking water reservoirs are abysmally low when compared to the levels in the corresponding period last year, water levels in Mettur, Bhavanisagar and Amaravathi are higher than last year’s figures.
According to data released by the Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management Authority (TNSDMA), the water level as on Saturday in Mettur dam was 72.43 feet against the full reservoir level of 120 feet. The level at Mettur dam stood at 52.07 feet last year.
A PWD official at Mettur dam told TNM that good rainfall during the southwest monsoon in the Cauvery catchment areas led to decent inflow to Mettur last year. “The rainfall was high there which led to Karnataka’s dams on Cauvery to release the excess water. Hence this year, the water level in Mettur dam is higher than what it was during the same period in the previous year,” he added. The inflow and outflow to and from the Mettur reservoir was as high as 1.35 lakh cusecs during the southwest monsoon season of 2018.
Mettur dam was opened to release water for irrigation purposes in the delta districts -- Thanjavur, Thiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Trichy, Ariyalur, Cuddalore and Pudukkottai – on July 19 and will be closed on January 28.
Ranganathan, the General Secretary of Tamil Nadu Cauvery Delta Farmers Association said that the current water level in Cauvery is appreciable and requested the state government to analyse the usage and release water accordingly. “As far as crops in delta region are concerned, it is the late thaladi crop season and water is needed for that too since those crops are also paddy. So I would suggest the government to prioritise between the crops and drinking water purpose and manage the available water,” he said.
Late thaladi crops are paddy crops sown during November-December every year. These crops are harvested in around 120 days and require a lot of water to grow.
Veerarajendiran, a farmer from Thanjavur told TNM that they have sown thaladi crop in their fields and that those haven’t sprouted even foliage till now. “The crops are still it their nascent stage. Mettur will anyway close by this month end, and this is not at all sufficient for us. But the government has to do something about it,” he added.
Ranganathan also told TNM that as farmers, they are advising their members to not grow summer crops since water will be scarce and drinking water will be the top priority for government. “Mettur’s level affects our ground water levels also and hence we are advising farmers to avoid cultivation during summer season since the dam level will be low and also the ground water table. So we are telling our farmers to sow seeds only during southwest monsoon,” he explained.
Referring to the proposed Mekedatu project across Cauvery in Karnataka, Veerarajendiran said that this would sound the death knell for the families in Thanjavur agricultural belt. “Agriculture is our ancestral job and if more water is taken away from us, we will have nowhere to go, nothing to do,” he said.