PERAMBALUR: The Water Resources Department (WRD) on Friday laid the foundation stone for construction of a check dam across Porkuni river in Ladapuram of the district.
The structure, to be constructed at a cost of Rs 1.76 crore, is the latest in a series of new check dams being built across rivers in the district. The WRD had also laid the foundation for separate check dams across the Marudaiyaru in Vilamuthur and the Vedhanadhi in Anukkur on February 5 and February 7 respectively.
The check dams will be constructed at a cost of Rs 3.09 crore and Rs 3.43 crore respectively. However, pointing to the state the rivers are in due to "lack of maintenance", locals criticise the WRD for instead prioritising construction of new check dams.
Over the years, seemai karuvelam (Prosopis juliflora) growth has reduced the width of several rivers and obstructed water flow. Rivers even appear to have gone missing in some places due to the weed overgrowth, complain locals.
Mentioning the branches of these rivers and small streams in need of restoration, they add that the situation is similar with all the 73 lakes under the WRD, where damaged canals and sluices awaiting repairs worsen the situation. "Desilting works are pending and despite multiple requests for restoration of rivers, officials say they have no funds.
What is the use of building check dams without properly restoring waterbodies," S Ragavan, a resident, said. "Why not allocate funds to completely rehabilitate the rivers?" he added.
Further, pointing to the dam under construction across the Marudaiyaru at a cost of Rs 149.4 crore in Kottarai for the past seven years, he asked, "Why is the WRD still delaying the project?" Once completed, the dam is projected to irrigate 4,194 acres of farmland. T Sivakumar, who mentions having filed multiple petitions with the district collectorate over the past six years seeking restoration of the river, said,
"WRD has planned a new check dam in Vilamathur for a short stretch at a high estimate. But there is already a regulator across the river in the village, 800 metres away from the proposed check dam. While a check dam is to store enough water and increase the groundwater level, we do not know how much water can be stored in an 800-metre area." He also wondered whether the check dams required the allocated funds.
When contacted WRD (Perambalur) executive engineer V Velmurugan told TNIE, "The government allocates funds based on categories such as rehabilitation (lakes) and new check dams. Based on that, funds have been allocated to Perambalur for three new check dams and rehabilitation works. Following this, we laid the foundation stone for check dams." He added that the department will restore the lakes and a stretch of the Marudaiyaru and Anaivari stream.