Srivaikundam dam awaits 50 years for desilting

Storage is filled with thorny bushes, water hyacinth & sand, can hardly store 0.3 tmcft now

Thoothukudi: The Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has delayed granting approval for the desilting of the Srivaikundam dam prior to the onset of the northeast monsoon, a demand that farmers here have been making to save 8 tmcft of flood water that will otherwise wastefully drain into the Bay of Bengal from the Thamirabarani.

Being the last reservoir in the Thamirabarani irrigation system, the Srivaikundam dam, built around 1869, has almost lost its storage capacity of 8 tmcft as it has not been properly desilted for about 50 years, according to Nainar Kulasekaran, coordinator of the Thamirabarani River Water Protection Forum.

The storage space of the dam, which is filled with thorny bushes, water hyacinth and sand, can hardly store 0.3 tmcft now, according to Thoothukudi district collector Ravikumar, who had officials of the public works department (PWD) and the department of environment and forests conduct a survey in June this year. This had given hope to the hapless farmers in the district.

Based on the joint survey, the state PWD estimated a cost of Rs 4.50 crore for the task, with around 70 per cent of the project cost being realised by auctioning the river sand mined during the desilting process. Yet, the delay is occurring as the MoEF, which holds a 100-year lease on 96.6 acres of forest cover in the dam area, is yet to give the green signal.

The farmers have demanded that the state cancel the lease agreement and take back the 96.6 acres if it stonewalls the programme which will benefit them. The Thoothukudi district collector pacified the farmers, stating that he had been closely following the issue with the officials of the central forest department and hoped to get their approval soon.

The farmers have, however, lost hope that the dam would be desilted before the monsoon, which is expected to commence within a month. Nainar Kulasekaran pointed out that every year, around 20 tmcft of flood water from the Thamirabarani, capable of irrigating over a lakh acres of land, was being wasted due to the lack of storage facility.

( Source : dc )
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