CHENNAI: With the water level in the Krishnaraja Sagar reservoir in Mandya district depleting, Karnataka has reduced the quantum of water released into the Tamil Nadu-bound Cauvery river. This means the farmers living in the downstream of the river in TN are set for a long summer. Not just the irrigation, the drinking water needs will also take a hit. On Saturday, the level in the KRS stood at 81.17 ft as against 124.8 ft. The Karnataka Water Resources Department officials told Express that they were expecting some rainfall activity by the month-end in the catchment areas of the KRS, failing which the situation would worsen.
Currently, the storage in the KRS dam is 11 tmcft, of which 4.5 tmcft is dead storage and another 4.5 tmcft is meant for drinking water needs of Bengaluru, Mysuru and Mandya cities. “We have already stopped releasing water to canals a fortnight ago. What is left is 3 tmcft of water. We are maintaining a average outflow of 1,203 cusecs, which include 1,103 cusecs for river, but it would dry up in a month’s time, if rain gods show no mercy,” the KRS officials said.
In a normal year, Karnataka has to release to Tamil Nadu at Biligundulu 192 tmcft in monthly deliveries. This comprises 182 tmcft from the allocated share of Tamil Nadu, including 10 tmcft for environmental purposes. In a distress year, the allocated shares shall be proportionately reduced among Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. So far this year, Karnataka has released less than 120 tmcft of water. From March to May, Tamil Nadu is entitled to get 2.5 tmcft of water each month, sources said.
Karnataka and nine other States, including Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, were declared drought-hit in 2015 due to the second year of a deficit south-west monsoon. Mandya district in Karnataka alone reported 110 farmers’ suicides, the highest in the history, due to failure of crops and debt burden.
Former special chief engineer and Tamil Nadu PWD Senior Engineers Association secretary A Veerappan told Express that Tamil Nadu’s legitimate rights over the Cauvery waters will not be met unless Cauvery Management Board and Cauvery Regulatory Committee are constituted. “Besides fighting for our share of Cauvery water, the TN government should also chalk out plans on conserving flood waters that flow into sea every year. As per statistics, once in every four years, 259.76 tmcft of water is drained into sea due to lack of proper mechanism to tap water. There are 18,789 tanks in the State maintained by the PWD. Each tank is spread across 40 hectares having a cumulative storage capacity of 390 tmcft, but due to improper maintenance, the tanks have lost the storage capacity considerably”.
“Our government should focus on tapping internal water resources and become self-sufficient instead of depending on Karnataka for the Cauvery water. Yes, we have to fight for our rights, but this year Karnataka is not in a position to provide adequate water and if we had put in place good infrastructure to stop our flood waters from draining into sea, we would have easily managed the situation,” Veerapan further added.