Tirupattur: Poor upkeep ruins farm ponds, river channels

Palar activists, farmers seek desilting of farm ponds during dry season; failure may render world-record effort futile
Farm pond, of the 1,556 constructed in Tirupattur last year for the world record, covered in grass, silt as result of poor maintenance
Farm pond, of the 1,556 constructed in Tirupattur last year for the world record, covered in grass, silt as result of poor maintenancePhoto | Express

TIRUPATTUR: With warnings of heavy to very heavy rainfall issued in several districts, including Tirupattur, activists and farmers from the district have voiced their concerns regarding the delay in desilting water supply channels, lakes, irrigation canals, and the 1,556 farm ponds constructed last year. A failure to desilt the channels now, a dry season, would result in surface runoff, impeding groundwater restoration and the rainwater not being utilised for irrigation.

In 2023, Tirupattur district set a world record by constructing 1,556 farm ponds within 30 days. However, the locals and activists claimed that due to inadequate upkeep, the farm ponds were affected by soil erosion, greatly minimising their storage capacity. In many areas, the water bodies are overrun with weed, they said.

The farm ponds require maintenance to fulfil their original purpose of ‘water storage during the monsoon season and groundwater recharge in the arid regions of the district,’ they added.

Ashokan, Palar River activist and a member of the Rivers of Ecology Committee, said a failure to desilt and maintain the ponds on a periodic basis would render futile, all the efforts that had gone into constructing them. He said that during the monsoon season, water stored in water bodies near the river basin is channelled to be utilised for agriculture and drinking water purposes.

"It has been three years since these channels were desilted. Many are overrun by thorny bushes which obstruct water flow even during the monsoon season," he said. The desilting must have been carried out during February and March, he said, otherwise, the rainwater would go to waste. Water supply channels and direct irrigation canals linked to River Palar are one of the primary channels that ensure the groundwater table gets recharged, he added.

Mohan, a 75-year-old farmer from Ambalur, said that the flow along the closest canals -- Kilpatrai and Melpatrai -- was sluggish and minimal due to the overgrown weeds and thorny bushes. "Removing these will slightly improve water flow, thereby enhancing farmland irrigation. Considering the current dry spell, if the government undertakes cleaning of these canals now, it will be beneficial during the monsoon season," he added.

Balaji, an official from the Public Works Department (PWD), said the number of channels that could be desilted depended on the availability of funds. "We undertook the desilting process in the canals a year ago, and it will be carried out periodically, with the next scheduled for July." Regarding the Melpatrai and Kilpatrai canals, he said that the construction of a check dam for those areas has been approved, which would be completed by this year.

On the lack of maintenance of farm ponds, an official from the District Rural Development Authority said that it was not feasible to reallocate funds for the same scheme under which the farm ponds were constructed. However, the official assured appropriate action in this matter.

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