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With the copious rains that Karnataka has received in July so far, particularly in the Cauvery basin of the state, Tamil Nadu might be in for good times on water availability. With the long-term predictions of the IMD for a good north-easterly monsoon also in September in Tamil Nadu, the state may soon be water surplus.

Responding quickly to the situation, the Water Resources Department (WRD) of Tamil Nadu has got its act together and a battery of engineers has begun inspecting water reservoirs and dams in the state, starting with the ones connected to the Cauvery basin and downstream riparian course.

The state had begun the capacity building for augmenting water in the early part of the 70s which makes it one of the earliest southern states to do so. Tamil Nadu has 90 dams with a total storage capacity of 224 trillion cubic feet divided into two monsoon periods when the state gets water from directly and indirectly.

During the south-westerly monsoons, it gets water from both Karnataka and Wayanad of Kerala as a result of rains in the Western Ghats mainly centred around Kodagu district. By the end of July every year, the total water storage in all the 90 dams and reservoirs is around 130 trillion cubic feet (tmcft) in a good monsoon year.

Water Resources Department (WRD) of Tamil Nadu has got its act together and a battery of engineers has begun inspecting water reservoirs and dams in the state, starting with the ones connected to the Cauvery basin and downstream riparian course

The WRD’s expert team of engineers have also taken into account the work to be carried out in the southern riparian region of the Cauvery – sections of the 800 km of canals between the Bhavani Sagar-Mettur dams and other dams in the south of the state — that will need to be reinforced for further capacity.

In addition to the rains in the Cauvery catchment area in Karnataka, western Tamil Nadu districts have also got their share of water from the Mullaperiyar dam due to rains in neighbouring Kerala. Several rivers are in spate in the western State amid copious rains.

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The Meteorological Department has forecast significant rainfall in Tamil Nadu during the northeast monsoon scheduled to start from September.

The WRD has already formed a Dam Safety Review Panel to conduct a thorough examination. The first set of dams inspected in the last three days are in Tiruchi, Coimbatore, and Madurai districts.

According to officials in the Department, the inspection team also advised modernising the shutters of the Poondi reservoir, which is one of Chennai’s critical drinking water reserves.

“The inspection of dams ahead of the north-east monsoons is not just an annual ritual but a sustained maintenance exercise. We have also recommended upgrading the dam’s embankments and water channels before the arrival of the northeast monsoon,” officials at the WRD told Inmathi   “A full report on the Poondi reservoir will be submitted in the next two weeks following which the required civil works will begin and be completed much before the onset of the monsoons,” they added.

It is worth recalling that the Government of Tamil Nadu requested that the last leg of the Godavari-Cauvery link project, namely, the Pennar-Palar-Cauvery link canal reach may be taken at a higher elevation after crossing the Palar river by pumping from Dusi Mamandur Tank, and terminated at Kattalai barrage instead of the Grand Anicut in Phase-I itself. This would save time and widespread destruction of estuarian areas if a grand anicut is taken up in the phase. A preliminary draft concept note has been prepared by National Water Development Authority on the suggested higher-level canal alignment. However, the change is subject its techno-economic viability being approved.

“The inspection of dams ahead of the north-east monsoons is not just an annual ritual but a sustained maintenance exercise. We have also recommended upgrading the dam’s embankments and water channels before the arrival of the northeast monsoon,” officials at the WRD told Inmathi

Further, the state had also requested that the Poondi reservoir be linked with the Araniyar reservoir in Thiruvallur near Pulicat so that 609 tanks with a capacity of 15 TMC can be filled. However, the integration of the Araniyar and Poondi dams is linked with the firming up of Phase II of the Godavari-Cauvery link proposal which also is a part of the Union budget proposal.

Over nine lakh hectares were irrigated by the Cauvery river water for growing ragi, sugarcane and paddy with irrigation infrastructure comprising 75 dams, 10,540 tanks, 4,429 km of canals to meet the water requirement of nearly 33 lakh hectares of gross in the State.

According to sources in the Cauvery Monitoring Committee, Tamil Nadu had one of the best irrigation and water augmentation facilities among the southern states, and this was buffered by rainfall from monsoon inflows from two seasons — June-September and October-December.


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