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Mettur dam touches 100-foot mark

By T. Ramakrishnan

CHENNAI, NOV. 14. After four years, the Mettur dam, lifeline of the Cauvery delta, has touched the 100-foot mark.

Public Works Department Officials, custodian of the dam, say it remains to be seen whether the reservoir will cross the full level. Two factors can make this happen. One: rain in the dam's catchment in the Tamil Nadu limits. In 1999 and 2000, a downpour in this region, particularly in parts of Dharmapuri district, caused the dam to overflow. On both occasions, the catchment witnessed heavy rainfall in late September or early October.

Second: the release of the State's share by Karnataka. Till now, Tamil Nadu realised about 142 tmcft of Cauvery water (since June 1) against its share of 174 tmcft. "If we receive our due of 32 tmcft, the dam will be full," says a senior official of the PWD.

In a water year from June to May, Tamil Nadu is entitled to get 205 tmcft from Karnataka, according to the 1991 Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal's interim order.

Solutions for flooding

Though the present storage of the dam makes water managers and farmers happy, rainspells in the last few weeks in the delta, especially in the Nagapattinam district, have made farmer-leaders and administrators reflect over solutions to the recurring problem of inundation of paddy fields and the consequent crop loss.

Encroachments

Encroachment of floodplains and banks of drainage channels coupled with conversion of "kottagams" (sites used traditionally for drainage) into paddy fields and breaching of channels to facilitate diversion of more water for some paddy fields have accentuated the problem of flooding when the delta gets heavy rain. (After the enforcement of land ceiling law, "kottagams" became patta land and were distributed to farmers).

S. Ranganathan, Cauvery Delta Farmers' Welfare Association general secretary, says that those owning land on the "kottagams" should be persuaded to give it up and be adequately compensated. This should precede restoration of the "kottagams" which could be used for fishing.

One more problem is the presence of numerous prawn farms along the coast from Parangipetti to Kodikkarai. These farms have no exclusive inlet or outlets. Nor do they have their own drainage channels, creating water quality problems and adversely affecting those dependent on agriculture. Rules should be framed for streamlining the functioning of the prawn farms, Mr. Ranganathan said.

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