Farmers rejoice over Rs 800 crore allocation for restoring waterbodies in Ramanathapuram

At present, more than 98,000 hectares of paddy, which is 73% of the total paddy cultivation in Ramanathapuram, have been completely damaged due to irrigation woes.
Image used for representative purposes only. (Photo | MK Ashok Kumar, EPS)
Image used for representative purposes only. (Photo | MK Ashok Kumar, EPS)

MADURAI: While the ill-maintained waterbodies in Ramanathapuram have been often dubbed as one of the major reasons for irrigation woes and crop loss for many decades, the latest announcement of Rs 800 crore in the TN budget--for reviving and restoring the waterbodies under the rural development department--has brought a sigh of relief to the farmers in the district.  

As Tamil Nadu Finance Minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan tabled the state budget on Monday, he observed that around 6,618 waterbodies in rural areas were restored by the rural development department over the past two years at a cost of Rs 638 crore. He further stated that around 10,000 waterbodies in rural areas, consisting of minor irrigation tanks, ponds, and ooranis, will be renovated in the next two years at a cost of Rs 800 crore.

Official sources from Ramanathapuram stated that out of the total 5,660 waterbodies in the district, only 641 tanks are listed under the Water Resources Department (WRD), whereas more than 3,897 waterbodies, including ooranis, ponds and around 1,122 tanks, are listed under the rural development department.

Besides rainfall, these waterbodies are what fulfil the irrigation needs of almost all agricultural fields in the district, the officials said.

At present, more than 98,000 hectares of paddy, which is 73% of the total paddy cultivation in Ramanathapuram, have been completely damaged due to irrigation woes. Local farmers allege that besides the sporadic rainfall and copious inflow of water from the Vaigai river, the ill-maintained irrigation tanks have caused disastrous aftermath in the district.  

M Gavasker, a farmer and functionary of a local farmers association in Thiruvadanai, said that there are hundreds of irrigation tanks situated in and around the district besides the tanks and approach canals properly maintained by the WRD. 

Hundreds of union tanks, ooranis and ponds under the rural development departments have not been restored for almost three to four decades, affecting their ability to store enough water, he said, stating they the farmers have been left to face massive crop loss during the cultivation season too.

"We welcome the announcement in the budget about the restoration of minor irrigation tanks, ponds and ooranis. We request Chief Minister MK Stalin to take immediate action towards restoring all the tanks in Ramanathapuram before the next monsoon season commences so that we can store enough water for agricultural purposes," he added.  

He also added that the TN government should take measures towards diverting the excessive Vaigai water flowing into the sea, into minor tanks, ponds and ooranis by constructing branch canals. Such action will solve the decades-long irrigation woes of Ramnad farmers, he said. He also requested the state government to take action to expedite the Cauvery Vaigai Gundar linking project works.  

While speaking, President of TN Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Madurai Dr N Jegatheesan, stated that the announcement about the TN government's decision to restore 10,000 waterbodies in the state would not only increase the water storage capacity and also improve the groundwater table. Further speaking, he also stated that the initiative would increase employment opportunities in the rural parts and help solve the irrigation woes of farmers.

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