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The Tamil Nadu government celebrated the release of water from Mettur. Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami was there in person, a rarity for a chief minister. As if to throw a dampener, farmers’ leader P R Pandian had said that the Cauvery Management Authority should have been informed of the water release. In response, Edappadi wondered if Pandian knew anything about legal issues.

At, we have been saying that the water release may not quite benefit kuruvai but certainly help samba. Farmers have been saying that earlier release of water would have helped kuruvai too. With Mettur water not being released on time in the recent past, kuruvai cultivation had shrunk to one third – fed largely by groundwater. From three crops, farmers were down to two crops every year.

“In 2011-12, water was released on June 6. Some 4.75 lakh acres of kuruvai was possible that year. Now, only some 1.5 lakh acres are cultivated during kuruvai. This year also, only some 1.5 lakh acres have been sowed. If water had been released end of June, it is possible that we could have had kuruvai cultivation over 4.75 lakh acres,” says P R Pandian.

Pandian explains kuruvai is crucial to the profitability of delta farming since it is a short-term crop and can earn the farmer dividends in just four months. “Samba has not been reliable. In the last few years, the north-east monsoon has failed. Samba covers 11 districts and 25 lakh acres. Out of this, 18 lakh acres depend on Cauvery. The water that has been released will likely benefit Samba,” he said.

Many have said check dams should be built downstream of Mettur so that the water that would be released can be stored. But retired PWD engineer Thirunavukkarasu says: “Each check dam can store only half tmcft of water. This would mean that to store 25 tmcft of water we would need to build 45 check dams. This would take nearly four years and would be expensive. A better solution would be to lay a canal to connect to the Vaigai basin. Just as there is a proposal to link Godavari to Cauvery, in the long term, it would be a good idea to link Cauvery and Vaigai. This would transform Virudhunagar and Ramanathapuram districts too.”

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