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PWD officials denying water for Radhapuram channel: Appavu

By P. Sudhagar

Tirunelveli Dec. 16. Though the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, ordered release of 150 cusecs of water from the Petchipaarai dam in the Radhapuram channel in Tirunelveli district for 10 days for irrigation, Public Works department officials of Kanyakumari district have released only 55 cusecs, according to PWD sources here. And even this quantum was ensured after the Radhapuram MLA, M. Appavu, met PWD officials on December 6, the sources said.

As surplus water from the dam was discharged only into the sea till mid-1960s, the 40-km long Radhapuram channel, with a capacity of 150 cft, was constructed during the Kamaraj regime, in 1965 after repeated pleas from the then Radhapuram MLA, Soundarapandian, to provide irrigation for 6,000 acres of cultivable land under 52 tanks in Radhapuram taluk, a rain-shadow region. Kamaraj, in a bid to supply water to the Radhapuram area also ordered raising the dam storage from 42 to 48 feet.

If 100 cusecs is discharged for 30 days, all 52 tanks can be filled up and will mean depletion of just one and a half feet in the dam.

``But in practice, the PWD officials never release water in the Radhapuram channel in spite of the storage exceeding 42 feet, alleges Mr. Appavu. ``The officials, at the instance of a group of persons, which poses as representatives of farmer's associations, refuse to release water in the Radhapuram channel. Moreover, they never allow the water level to exceed 42 feet as they have permitted cultivation in the catchment area by some powerful persons and Kaani tribals.'' No tank in Radhapuram taluk received supply after water was released in the Radhapuram channel, says Mr. Appavu.

However, denying the allegations, a top PWD official of Kanyakumari district said over 120 cusecs was released from the Thovaalai channel, which actually gets water from the Petchipaarai dam. ``Since the channel is very weak, we can't release 150 cusecs. Owing to transmission loss and the drawal by farmers enroute, the quantity reaching the Radhapuram taluk is less,'' he said.

The supply, diverted to the Radhapuram channel from the Thovaalai channel, is meagre as only knee-deep water is flowing at snail's pace in the channel. This flow would be allowed till December 20.

As water was not properly released, the Radhapuram channel suffered extensive damage in the past 25 years and desilting has to be done along the water course. However, according to PWD records, ``the channel was desilted and repaired whenever maintenance was required".

``While getting water from the Kanyakumari PWD officials has become a tough exercise, storing the meagre supply released from the Petchipaarai dam is a tougher task as the officials are insensitive to saving it. If they continue to behave like this, there would be unrest among the public,'' Mr. Appavu warned.

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