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TIRUNELVELI: The revamping of Radhapuram channel, which commenced on last February 24 with the objective of taking surplus water from Petchipaarai dam to 52 tanks in the Radhapuram taluk, is inching at a snail's pace and hence the flood water from the dam cannot be released in the channel for irrigation.
The 28-km-long channel was dug when the then Chief Minister, K. Kamaraj, saw heavy discharge of floodwater from Petchipaarai dam being wasted into the sea. While taking steps to increase the height of the reservoir from 42 feet to 48 feet with the aim of taking the surplus water to Radhapuram taluk, the only rain-shadow region of Tirunelveli district situated close to the boundary of the two districts, he also sanctioned a huge sum for excavating the channel.
After Radhapuram area suffered successive monsoon failures and was reeling under severe drought, the State Government issued an order in 1972 declaring that water from Petchipaarai dam should be released into the Radhapuram Channel, whenever the reservoir had a storage of 1,300 mcft on June 16 every year. However, the PWD officials of Kanyakumari district never honoured this Government Order, fearing strong backlash from the farmers. Whenever the Radhapuram public and the MLA revolted against the PWD officials of Kanyakumari, a meagre quantity would be diverted into the Radhapuram Channel and that too only for a few days from Nilappaarai near Nagercoil.
If 150-cft water is released for 20 days to the 52 tanks, having cumulative storage level of 300 mcft, drinking water crisis in this region can be solved to a greater extent and the rain-fed lands of this region can be made cultivable.
If 100 cusecs is discharged for 30 days, all 52 tanks can be filled up and it will mean depletion of just one-and-a-half feet of water in the dam.
Meanwhile, the Radhapuram Channel, which did not undergo any renovation for the past several years, suffered severe breaches at several places when water was released in the channel. Following repeated appeal from the then Radhapuram MLA, M. Appavu, the State Government sanctioned Rs. 13.88 crore for strengthening the channel and the work commenced on last February 24, much before the Assembly election was notified.
“Though the channel is being revamped only at the points where it is weak, the work is progressing at a slow pace. Even as over 17,000 acres of land in Radhapuram region is craving for water, surplus water from Petchipaarai dam is being wasted into the sea. Another concern of the farmers of this region is that the PWD should also repair the shutters of all irrigation tanks being fed by this channel before water is released in the channel,” said S. Baskar, president, Aavaraikulam village panchayat.
However, the officials designated for the repair work of the channel said that the actual duration for the completion of the work was 24 months and hence they had plenty of time to complete the exercise. The farmers of Radhapuram and the public are afraid that the bone-dry irrigation tanks might lead to intrusion of seawater into land which would affect the wells and deep borewells badly.
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