Protests broke out on Wednesday outside the Tirunelveli Collectorate over the lack of water supply to surrounding villages. Over a hundred men and women sat with empty plastic pots under the blazing sun alleging that complaints to the Collector for close to a year now, have fallen on deaf years. Further, the images of the near empty Papanasam dam with dead fish floating on its surface has sparked concern among residents.
Several parts of Tamil Nadu are already facing acute water scarcity after multiple failed monsoons. But the fast depleting water of the Papanasam dam, which caters to the needs of Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Virudhunagar districts, has proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back. The storage level of the dam located near Tirunelveli which has a maximum capacity of 143 feet currently has water only up to 10 feet. This, reportedly, after the failure of the southwest monsoon and north east monsoon.
While Collector Shilpa Prabhakar Satish was not available for comment, officials in the local administration told TNM that they were helpless as lack of rainfall had created the shortage. Maintaining drinking water supply to rural and urban localities has proven to be very challenging with water only extracted from Manimuthur, Tirunelveli district’s largest dam.
'Govt apathy to blame'
"We are expecting rainfall when Kerala gets showers. But even that seems to be getting delayed," laments a district official.
However, DMK leader M Kanimozhi alleges that it is the state government's apathy that must be blamed for the current situation. In a series of tweets, the newly elected Thoothukudi MP says, "Thousands of dead fish are floating on the Papanasam dam which caters to the water needs of Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumar, after water levels reduced to less than 10 feet. Since this dam was built, no desiltation was done and its base is full of slush. Even the little water extracted from the dam smells and is contaminated, adding to the possibility of disease spreading."
She further appeals to the state government to let go of its apathy, remove the dead fish on the dam and begin desiltation work.
Speaking to TNM, Tirunelveli MLA Lakshmanan ALS says, "This is the first time in 30 years that the dam is seeing water below 30 feet. It is only the government that can order the Public Works Department and electricity board to look into the desilting. Even now, it is not late. We can clean the dam before the next set of rain which will come in 15 days."