IDUKKI: The rising water level in the Mullaperiyar dam and the state’s decision to resume water discharge have raised the hopes of farmers in the villages bordering Kerala and Tamil Nadu, who were keeping their fingers crossed so that they could start cultivation. The water release was stopped by the end of March.
Farmers in the Cumbum-Gudalur area, located in the rain shadow region of the Western Ghats bordering Idukki district where desertification had set in, were pinning their hopes on the release of the full quota of 1,600 cusecs of dam water through the four penstock pipes. Kerala stopped releasing water via the penstocks since March-end as the water level in the dam declined below 112 ft.
Tamil Nadu has been drawing water only via Erachilpalam, for drinking purpose. However, the heavy rain that lashed the dam’s catchment area last week increased the water level to 130.70 ft as on Monday. Kerala now releases 1,600 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu through all four penstocks and 100 cusecs via Erachilpalam, thus discharging a total of 1,700 cusecs of water from the dam.
Farmers in Theni district of Tamil Nadu, who cultivate paddy on 3,000 acres after water is released from the Mullaperiyar dam during the monsoon, have not started any activity this time. But, now they say that if water is released, they can cultivate at least 25 per cent of the area, which is closer to the channels or tanks.
“Usually 1,600 cusecs of water are released via four penstocks (400 cusecs per each penstock) by June if the monsoon showers are good. However, heavy showers started lashing the dam’s catchment area only from August 8, which resulted in the water level reaching 130 ft,” an official concerned with the dam safety said.
According to Arumukhan R, a farmer in Gudalur, Aadipattam (from mid-July to mid-August) is an important cropping season under the rain-fed system in Tamil Nadu. “Cereals, oilseeds and vegetables are the crops usually grown during this season. The Southwest Monsoon determines the farming of crops. The monsoon this year has been predicted to be below normal. Except for two or three showers since June, the place has not received good rainfall conducive for the crops,” he said.
“The water has brought solace, but paddy could be sown only if the villages receive good rainfall,” Arumukhan said.