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| Last Updated:17/02/2014

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Water scarcity may cast shadow on elections

P. SUDHAKAR, S POORVAJA, The Hindu, 12 February, 2014


With poor storage in Papanasam dam, Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts may witness a serious drinking water crisis during the Lok Sabha elections. Photo: A. Shaikmohideen


Dam levels in southern districts nosediving; residents paying price for water in Madurai


TIRUNELVELI/MADURAI: A truant monsoon and dwindling storage level in the major reservoirs of southern districts are expected to make the summer the cruellest in recent memory and water scarcity a major poll issue.


While Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts face the problem of sharing available water for irrigation and other purposes equitably, an acute drinking water scarcity is staring at Madurai city.


With poor storage in Papanasam dam, Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts may witness a serious drinking water crisis during election. Flow into Papanasam dam, which has a storage level of 143 feet, hovers around 200 to 300 cusecs and the discharge for irrigation of ‘pisanam’ paddy is at over 1,100 cusecs. The crop will be ready for harvest in March for which water release has to be sustained for the next 25 days. Joint Director of Agriculture K. Soundararajan said, “Paddy has been cultivated on 39,143 acres in Tirunelveli district and over 46,000 acres in Tuticorin. So far, 20 per cent of the crop has been harvested and the remaining will be ready for harvest in the next 30 days.” Turn system is followed in some areas, sensing the impending problem. The present quantum of discharge causes a drop of 1.50 feet every day. Water level in Papanasam dam, which stood at 68.35 feet on Monday, came down to 66.60 feet on Tuesday, as 1,154 cusecs of water is released for irrigation and drinking purposes.


“While we have to provide water for saving the standing crop for the next 25 days, drinking water requirement should also be taken into account. After 25 days, the level will be around 30 feet with 15-foot silt, if the dry spell continues,” a senior PWD official said. Water release for drinking and industrial needs will be a challenge from mid-March. When electioneering reaches its crescendo, the situation is likely to worsen.


“We cannot imagine a situation of people sitting on the roads with empty pots even as leaders hit the streets for electioneering,” the PWD official noted. Nine other dams in the district now have only one-third of their maximum storage.


A drinking water crisis has been created in Madurai city with water level in the Vaigai dam coming down from 41 feet in January to 34 feet on Tuesday. The Madurai Corporation has started once-in-four-days supply. In many parts of the city, groundwater level has gone down abysmally, ruling out the possibility of sinking borewells. People are forced to buy water in tankers at exorbitant rates.


Madurai, which should have received 22.5 mm rainfall in January 2014, recorded 5 mm.