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Water everywhere, but cultivation doubtful next season

With two vital checkdams damaged, farmers in Villupuram fear water shortage in 2022  

Published: 30th November 2021 05:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th November 2021 05:36 AM   |  A+A-

A file photo of Thenpennai river

Express News Service

VILLUPURAM: While the recent rains have left rivers in spate and thousands of acres of farmlands flooded across the State, the farmers of Villupuram are facing an unique predicament — the two biggest checkdams built across their lifeline, the Thenpennai river, suffered damage and were not able to store much rainwater. They watched helplessly as lakhs of litres of water drained into the sea, instead of being stored in checkdams and used for irrigation and replenishing groundwater resources.

Double blow
The Ellis Chatram checkdam was built in 1950 and was only expected to have a lifespan of 60 years. So 
it wasn’t very surprising when it sustained damage recently after serving the district for 71 years. With a length of more than a kilometre and a capacity of 0.5 TMC, the dam located at Thiruvennainallur taluk is easily the largest in the district. With the right sluice gate damaged, water was redirected to the left abutment. 

However, this would badly affect irrigation in the Vikravandi taluk, sources said. Reconstruction of the entire Ellis Chatram checkdam is underway at an estimated cost of `50 crore, say official sources, who add that work has already commenced.            

water flowing over Ellis Chatram checkdam | Express

But what has really irked farmers in the region has been the collapse of the Thalavanur checkdam, which was opened only a year ago. Built at a cost of `25 crore and inaugurated in September 2020, the sluices on both sides of the checkdam have been damaged. Villagers have alleged that shoddy work led to the damage and earlier this month, the sluice on the right side was blasted to stop erosion of river banks and prevent flooding of villages. 

District Collector D Mohan told TNIE that a proposal to reconstruct the dam has been prepared and a G.O is being awaited to begin the repair process.

Feast or famine
Farmers fear at least 10,000 acres of farm lands that depend on river irrigation could go dry by March 2022 as excess water was let to drain into the sea this monsoon season. Speaking to TNIE, K Kishore (35), a banana farmer from Ayyur Agaram said, “I own two acres of land and more than 2,000 saplings of banana were submerged in the rains. I incurred a loss of over `3.5 lakh and a year’s harvest was wiped out in hours in front of my eyes. There is flooding now, but when I start cultivation next February, there may not be water and arrangements will have to be made. So, basically I will have to take a loan of at least `5 lakh to reap a harvest in 2022.”

K Suresh (50), a paddy farmer from Arasur was worried about his inundated paddy fields and paying back the `30,000 loan he had taken for cultivation. “My one-and-a-half acres of paddy has gone to waste. My wife and I prayed fervently that we should not receive much rain. But our prayers and efforts went in vain. Our only hope is that the groundwater is available until March-April so we can start the next cultivation by January. The government should come up with checkdams and store more water. We should not let so much water go to the sea.” 

‘Provide aid’
P Kalivardhan, a farmer leader in Villupuram, demanded the government to issue compensation for all farmers affected by the floods, because only these funds will keep them going until cultivation begins in March 2022 



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