Tuesday, Sep 30, 2003
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By S. Rajendran
Sources in the Government told The Hindu here today that the storage in the Krishnaraja Sagar Reservoir (KRS), the Kabini, Hemavathi, and the Harangi was at an all-time low. They said that as the South-west monsoon season was expected to end shortly, the storage was unlikely to increase.
The Government is in a dilemma over the release of water for irrigation since the storage in the reservoirs is not sufficient to meet even the drinking water requirement. However, it has to release water for irrigation in the wake of the suicide by farmers.
As per an estimate of the Government, nearly 10 million people in around 100 villages on the Cauvery belt, apart from Bangalore and Mysore, will face drinking water shortage in the coming months. The South-west monsoon has played truant for the third year in succession, and the water-table even in villages on the banks of the Cauvery river has gone down. Sources say that if the situation does not improve and the North-east monsoon plays truant, it will be no surprise if the Government limits drinking water supply drastically.
The total drinking water requirement in Bangalore, Mysore, and 35 other towns and villages on the Cauvery belt is said to be about 25 tmcft. a year. The storage in the four reservoirs is far short of this quantity. After the good inflow into the Harangi reservoir last month following the heavy rainfall in the Cauvery catchment reservoirs for nearly a week, it was widely believed that the storage in the KRS, downstream of the Harangi, would increase.
The highest storage in the KRS (the maximum level is 124.80 ft.) has dropped steadily over the past three years. It was 121.20 ft. in 2001 and 110.92 ft. in 2002.
In the current year, the highest storage recorded is 94.12 ft. The KRS is the biggest of the four Cauvery Basin reservoirs, and to achieve 50 per cent storage, the water level has to touch the 105 ft. mark.
Rainfall in the Cauvery catchment areas is said to have decreased over the past decade except in 1991 (when it was 23 per cent above normal) and 1998 (24 per cent above normal). Rainfall was 30 per cent below normal in 2001, 33 per cent below normal in 2002, and 36 per cent below normal in the current year.
The Government has reportedly decided to appeal to the Cauvery Basin farmers not to take up full-scale agricultural operations since priority had to be given to supplying drinking water to over one crore people till the onset of the next South-west monsoon.
The Government disbursed over Rs. 40 crore in crop loans in the last agricultural season in Mandya district, which is largely fed by the KRS, and is now facing difficulty in recovering the money. The district has recorded a large number of suicide by farmers, many of whom took the extreme step because of their inability to repay loans.
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