Tamil Nadu

As One More State Tussle Over Cauvery Water Looms, Here's What Tamil Nadu Can Fix By Itself

S Rajesh

May 18, 2024, 04:35 PM | Updated 04:35 PM IST

Tamil Nadu CM Stalin and ministers at the Mettur dam for the ceremonial release of water for irrigation
Tamil Nadu CM Stalin and ministers at the Mettur dam for the ceremonial release of water for irrigation
  • Desilting the Mettur dam would increase its capacity by 30 tmc, as per estimates.
  • Reportedly, there is very little chance of water being released from the Mettur dam for irrigation on 12 June. So, agriculture specialists are advising farmers to skip growing paddy in the short kuruvai season and opt for the longer-duration samba season instead.

    While the release of water from the dam depends on the availability of water in the reservoir, based on the release of water by Karnataka and the inflows from the southwest monsoon, we might be staring at another round of tussle between the states Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the Cauvery water.

    And this is after what happened last year — protests by various outfits, the passing of a resolution on the issue by the Tamil Nadu assembly, officials walking out of a meeting of the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA), and so on — is still fresh in the memory. The matter finally reached the Supreme Court.

    However, there is still something that Tamil Nadu can do within its state boundaries to increase the availability of water for its farmers. The state can consider ‘desilting’ its dams and reservoirs so that they can store more water when available instead of letting the excess water into the sea.

    About 400 tmc (thousand million cubic feet) of water was reportedly released into the sea in the water year 2022-2023.

    This release of excess water into the sea has also been pointed out by Karnataka.

    As for the Mettur dam, desilting it would increase its capacity by 30 tmc, as per estimates.

    This is not a new policy prescription; there is demand for it on the ground. Desilting can be done all over the state and not just in the Cauvery belt.

    During the Lok Sabha election, it was among the important demands in Tirunelveli, a constituency this writer visited.

    Desilting is beneficial to farmers in another way — the silt, which is highly fertile, can be used in the fields. The state government can earn revenue by selling the silt.

    To be fair, the government has been undertaking desilting works. The previous All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government did it, too. However, there seems to be an ad hoc approach to the issue instead of adopting a holistic view, and farmers in different parts of the state keep demanding it every year.

    During the last year, for example, the Water Resources Department requested the government to desilt the Mettur dam at an estimated cost of Rs 3,000 crore. But it was reportedly turned down due to a lack of funds. However, this April, a news report said that the government is considering doing it.

    If the government could allot approximately Rs 7,000 crore for a scheme like the Magalir Urimai Thogai (under which women are given Rs 1,000 per month), then desilting of this dam, too, could have ideally been allocated adequate funds, as Cauvery water affects the livelihood of lakhs of farmers.

    Therefore, the government must come up with a policy for desilting all dams, reservoirs, and canals, and do it periodically. This can be a policy measure that all governments in the state adhere to (irrespective of the party in power), as water is precious and all efforts to stop its wastage should be taken up on priority.

    S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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