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Water released from Mettur dam

By R. Ilangovan

METTUR, AUG. 12. A massive sheet of water today gushed out of the huge sluices of the Stanley reservoir, signalling the start of yet another irrigation season which promises ``lots of hopes'' to anguished farmers of the Cauvery delta who suffered crop failure in the past three years.

Departing from the convention of opening the dam at sunset, the authorities, on orders from the Government, lifted the sluice gates at 9.20 a.m.

The opening, it was claimed, had to be timed for judicious water regulation from the Grand Anaicut.

A senior Public Works department official told The Hindu that the dam in its seven decades-old history was opened ``only thrice in forenoons and that too not in the past two decades.''

Low-key event

The opening of the dam was a low-key affair without any ritual. A basketful of red flower petals was emptied into the gushing water. In the absence of the Salem Collector, R. Sukumaran, who was away in Chennai on an official visit, the District Revenue Officer, T. P. Rajesh, along with the Mettur AIADMK MLA, S. Sundaramabal Marappan; the dam executive engineer, R. Subramanian, and the senior dam officer, R. Selvaraj, pressed the button to signal the lifting of the sluices — 70th time since the reservoir was commissioned in 1934.

Water release was staggered. An outflow of 4,000 cusecs was maintained till noon, it was increased to 9,000 cusecs in the evening and during night to 12,000 cusecs.

An average discharge of one thousand million cusecs (tmc) would be maintained for three days from today.

``Further withdrawals will be finalised later and based on demand,'' said the official. ``Water is expected to reach the Grand Anaicut by Sunday evening or in the early morning the next day.''

The water level, when the dam was opened, stood at 93.03 feet (full level 120 feet) with a storage of 56.181 tmcft. The inflow was 16,342 cusecs. The level during the corresponding period during last year was a mere 37 feet.

`No undue delay'

For the first time in its history, the dam was opened as late as on October 7, 2003, 117 days behind the scheduled date of June 12.

``It is far better this time. The dam was opened just 60 days behind schedule,'' the official said. An active southwest monsoon, particularly over Kerala and Karnataka, had brought copious inflows since June 17.

Ayacutdars of the east and west bank canals of the dam, who irrigate about 45,000 acres in Salem, Namakkal and Erode, have demanded release of water for them also.

A senior PWD official will leave for Chennai to discuss the issue with the Government.

The hydropower house at the dam site has also started production.

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