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Delta farmers seek barrages to prevent wastage of water

Price worth paying:Though building barrages requires a huge investment, the benefits outweigh the costs, say farmers.
Farmers’ organisations in the Cauvery delta region have urged the government to wake up to the need to save at least a portion of the water that goes waste in surplus years by building barrages.

With a huge quantum of surplus water from Karnataka running into the sea over the past few days, there is widespread demand to create adequate infrastructure to store the excess water.

On Sunday, however, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, while announcing the State government’s intent to construct check dams across Tamil Nadu over the next three years at an investment of Rs. 1,000 crore, ruled out the possibility of building such structures across the Cauvery, as the river flowed in the plains.

Farmers, however, feel that the Chief Minister should not be ruling out any storage options in the delta region.

“Our association had made a representation seeking the construction of barrages at 18 places between the Upper and Lower Anicuts on the Cauvery and Coleroon rivers. It will be feasible to build the barrages, but it will require huge investment,” said Mannargudi S. Ranganathan, general secretary, Cauvery Delta Farmers Welfare Association. A barrage is different from a check dam, which would stand just one or two feet in height and cannot hold much water.

“We can store up to two tmc (thousand million cubic) feet of water in a barrage,” Mr. Ranganathan said. “The Cauvery and Coleroon are in spate after 13 years, but we have allowed a huge quantum of water to go waste,” he regretted.

Some farmers’ representatives such as P.R. Pandian, president, Tamil Nadu All Farmers Federation, see the CM’s remarks as an attempt to “cover up the failure of the government.”

The government had failed to pursue the project announced by former CM Jayalalithaa to build a barrage across the Coleroon, and only now Mr. Palaniswami has announced that the work would resume. “Check dams may not be feasible or beneficial, but barrages can be built to good benefit,” he contended.

Swamimalai Vimalnathan, secretary, Thanjavur District Cauvery Farmers Protection Association, felt that the Chief Minister has only played into the hands of Karnataka.

“It is unfortunate that the Chief Minister has made such a statement which could be cited by Karnataka to justify and press ahead with its proposal to build a dam at Mekedatu,” he said.

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