VILLUPURAM: Hardly a month after the rains in the district left most of the villages inundated, farmers in are facing a water crisis. Terming the scarcity ‘man-made’, villagers say indiscriminate sand-mining on the banks of Malataru river has led to the drying up of channels supplying water to farms.
When Express visited Kongragundan, a picturesque village around 18 km from the district headquarters on the banks of Malataru river, a tributary of Thenpennai, the villagers claimed the entire stretch was slowly turning into a desert owing to the sand-mining.
Blaming a political functionary for the rise of sand mafia, a few villagers said that DMK’s Villupuram district treasurer Pughazhenthi had organised Kangaroo courts (Katta panchayat) and acted as a middleman to settle deals worth lakhs of rupees between the mafia and the bigwigs of Thalavanur, Kavanipakkam, Sernthanur, Athiyur, Arasamangalam, Kallipattu, Kuchipalayam and Poovarasankuppam and other villages. Villagers are entirely dependent on the Malataru water for their domestic and agrarian needs. The river irrigates, through its various channels, villages in a radius of 44 km and the neighbouring Puducherry.
According to Arumugam (55) of Kavanur near Thalavanur, “The Malataru irrigates over a lakh acres spread over 100 villages. Ever since the illegal sand-mining started, water reaching fields has come down. Moreover, the groundwater table has fallen down, leaving thousands of families in the region in acute drinking water crisis. Such is the situation in these villages even before the summer season has approached.”
Once the flood receded, it was natural for the excess water to flow into the channels, he said.
However, instead of flowing into the channels that led to agricultural lands, water filled up the deep pits dug on the banks, leading to channels running dry, he pointed out. When asked why had the villagers remained silent till now, he said, “The villagers too were given money by the mafia. When the crisis occurred, the villagers realised their mistake. The officials to0 are hand-in-glove with the sand mafia.”
When Express contacted the Villupuram Executive Engineer for Public Works Department Shanmugham, the official refuted the claims about illegal sand mining.
However, he said the only way to solve the water crisis in the region was to build a check-dam at Kongragundan.on the intersection of Malataru and Thenpennai rivers. “We will submit a proposal to the collector within two weeks. Once it gets approved by the authorities concerned, we shall start the works. But it will take over two to three years to complete the project,” the official added.