Playing truant

Karnataka still awaits rain

By Ramya Viswanath
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

even as Karnataka chief minister S M Krishna set off on his statewide tour of temples to invoke the rain gods, the water level in Mysore's Krishna Raja Sagar (krs) reservoir plunged to an all-time low of 65.68 feet. The krs dam is built on the Cauvery basin, which is the lifeline of city dwellers and farmers alike in the state. The total capacity of its reservoir is 124.80 feet. The dam supplies 205 tmc (ten thousand million cubic) feet water to various cities.

The extent of the crisis can be gauged from the fact that Bangalore has recorded only 1.3 millimetres (mm) of rainfall in May 2003 compared to 183 mm in the same month last year. Mysore, Mandya and Chamarajnagar districts are severely affected as well. While the monsoon arrived by mid-May in Karnataka in 2002, this year there are no signs of it as yet.

Farmers in Karnataka have been restricted from sowing paddy seedlings, as it would result in further loss of water resources, says Karnataka's former irrigation minister Nanje Gowda. In the Cauvery basin, paddy is cultivated on over 3,23,748 hectares of land.

Thousands of farmers across the border in the Thanjavur delta in Tamil Nadu (tn) too have been left in a similar predicament due to the non-arrival of rain. The Mettur reservoir in tn contains only 27.68 feet of water, as against its maximum level of 120 feet. Consequently, farmers have been advised not to grow the water-intensive kuruvai crop (short-duration paddy crop) this year. Every year on June 12, the Mettur dam is opened to irrigate nearly 4,85,622 hectares of this crop.

"We have taken this measure so that enough water can be stored for the samba crop (long-duration paddy crop) by the end of July," reveals S Ranganathan, general secretary, Tamil Nadu Cauvery Delta Farmers Association. Around 35-40 lakh tonnes of paddy is cultivated in the Thanjavur delta, which contributes to about 35 per cent of tn's entire paddy production.

In Karnataka, the livelihood of more than 500 farmers residing along the krs dam, who depend on fishing as a source of income during the monsoon, is also at stake. "Freshwater fish and the common carp will perish in the krs reservoir because of their inability to breed," points out C K Murthy, joint director, department of fisheries, Bangalore.

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