Monday, Feb 17, 2003
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By S. Vydhianathan
Though the Union Territory is entitled to 6 tmcft of water as per the interim award of the Cauvery Water Tribunal, it never received its due so far.
" Leave alone this year, when the water released by Karnataka to Tamil Nadu was not sufficient for its own crop. Even during years, when Tamil Nadu got more than the stipulated quantity of 204 tmcft, Pondicherry was not given its share," say Karaikal farmers.
The region forms bulk of the Cauvery delta in Pondicherry, where about 25,000 acres are brought under cultivation during samba every year. Most landowners are small and marginal farmers, who depend on river water. The quantum realised in the Mettur reservoir is utilised by Tamil Nadu, leaving Pondicherry to depend on seepages. The interests of Karaikal farmers, who stood by their Tamil Nadu brethren in their fight against Karnataka over the Cauvery issue, is forgotten by Tamil Nadu once it receives its share, they allege.
Karaikal farmers gave up kuruvai long back, thanks to the "big brother attitude " of Tamil Nadu. Now the cultivation of samba is a question mark, says Kalyanasundaram, general secretary, Karaikal Region Agriculturists Association, TKSM.
The condition of samba corp in Karaikal is no better than that of Tamil Nadu. As Karaikal is in the lower reaches of Cauvery, water does not reach the region unless there is a heavy discharge from Mettur.
90 per cent loss
This year the situation was worse, as the State received just 0.008-tmcft, against its share of 6 tmcft. Only 15,000 acres were brought under cultivation. Compounded by the northeast monsoon failure, the crop withered in 90 per cent of the areas. Only at Neravi, samba on a few hundred acres could be saved, thanks to water supply from a regulator, constructed across the Tirumalairajan canal. Here too, the flow was not normal. Farmers had to pump water with the help of diesel pumpsets, for which they spent Rs.50 an hour, apart from the diesel cost. More than 100 pumpsets were put to use to pump water from either side of the regulator. "We knew that we would not get back what we spent. But we wanted to save the crop," said Neravi farmers.
Many farmers sold their cattle anticipating difficulty in finding fodder. There seems to be little respite for the farmers till the next samba. They keep their fingers crossed, as there is no other source of income.
The Pondicherry Government announced relief for the farmers, but it would be enough only for meeting the expenditure incurred so far. Therefore, they want the Government to undertake food-for-work programme and supply fodder at subsidised price.
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