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Just like in the past, Mettur dam/water storage has been in the news this year also. Usually, during this month, there would be media reports of delta farmers facing water shortage, dried fields, and kuruvai taking a hit.

But the situation today is different. The dam is brimming, more than its capacity, and water is being released to prevent flooding in the plains. While there are plenty of statistics talking about how many cusecs of water are being stored, released etc, inmathi chose to look at the same issue in a different angle. How much of excess water will flow into the sea and get wasted?

In the last 50 years, Tamil Nadu has been predominantly ruled by the two Dravidian parties, AIADMK and DMK. That during their rule, not one dam has been constructed anywhere in the state, is the sad reality. This means no significant storage capacity has been added in the last 50 years.

“Not only Mettur, nearly all dams were built either by the British or during late K Kamaraj’s rule some 50 years back. Every year either it rains and floods the delta regions destroying the crops or there is drought affecting crop production. This has been the scene as far back as I can remember,” says J Ramadass (name changed), a retired agriculture department official from Nagapattinam.

Sometime back, inmathi featured a story on farmer R Baskaran who suggested that water release this year cannot really benefit kuruvai, but the government can direct the water to recharge ponds, lakes and water bodies to store water.

“Karnataka knows that if they do not release the water, their plains would face the deluge,”-Rajkumar from Pudukottai

A good number of farmers in the delta have also voiced the same opinion as Baskaran’s.  The copious water release from Karnataka to Mettur is not an act of benevolence, says Rajkumar from Pudukottai, Aranthangi. The region has been listed as drought-prone in government records. “They know that if they do not release the water, their plains would face the deluge,” he says.

‘Don’t blame the government’
A senior PWD engineer in the state water resource department, not wishing to be identified, says, “Excess water released from Mettur all these years has always gone to the sea. Not only Mettur dam, water from all dams, when in excess, is opened and water eventually flows into the sea. This is no big matter to get flustered. The state has enough dams and also several check dams. However, unlike in the case of dams, there are at present no records with the government as to how many check dams are there.”

“Excess water released from Mettur all these years has always gone to the sea. Not only Mettur dam, water from all dams, when in excess, is opened and water eventually flows into the sea.” – Senior PWD Engineer.

Regarding a question as to how many hundreds or thousands of cusecs of water might flow into the sea this month, he says the government is not sure. “We need to observe and record it. If you ask this question at that time we might be able to give you some answer. Right now we are blank on this. But if farmers are so concerned about excess water flowing into the sea and getting wasted, they can dig pits to save the running water and store it, thereby preventing it from flowing into the sea. Small farmers, say those with 2 to 3 acres, can form groups and dig pits on sharing basis to store this water, out of self-interest. Simply blaming the government is not the solution. The government cannot be expected to do everything the common man needs. Society should also come forward to do certain things,” he says grimly.

Ramasubbu (name changed),  a serving Agriculture Officer in the department in Thiruthuraipoondi, says, “Building dams now? Are you dreaming? Today’s politics is different. To build a simple shed, we need to grease palms, cut commissions, give percentage. You are talking of building another storage dam. How is this possible?” he says, smiling sardonically.

But aren’t there schemes in the government department for at least digging ponds for farmers?

“There are schemes for everything. From digging wells through buying machines to marketing, there are schemes. They are there on paper. But funds? It has to come from the top and before it reaches our department, 90% gets evaporated (taken), and what is there for us to take? And you are talking of water wastage? If it rains, there is water, and if monsoon fails we have drought. That is all. This is India, not Israel. Nobody can change the scenario here, that too in agriculture. I have been in this department for three decades and I know how it functions,” says Vadivelu (name changed), another agriculture official in Tiruchi.

We tried to bring this up to the notice of the state agriculture minister’s office but till this article was being uploaded, we did not hear from them. “Whatever be the situation, unless individual attitudes change, one cannot expect the government to change. Change, if any, should come from farmers. Be it water conservation, water storing or using water judiciously, our farmers do not seem to think that water is a precious commodity. For them, it is a basic right and they can use it as and how they please. It is only when there is water shortage do they realise its importance but forget it once monsoon sets in. Regarding judicious usage, personally I think Israel is way ahead. We might take another 30 years to reach their stage. But until then Mettur Cauvery should have water,” signs off K Ramasamy, Vice-Chancellor, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore.

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