Thanjavur: All was not well for people and farmers of Thanjavur district in 2018, as Gaja cylone wrought havoc at the fag-end of the year. People of the district are yet to recover from the shock as devastation caused by the cyclone was enormous in terms of livelihood, economy and occupations.
Many have lost their houses before the New Year, ushering in four days. Official figures say that nearly 1.3 lakh houses have been damaged, of which one lakh are fully damaged. Enumeration itself is yet to be completed and then will the process of building houses for them begin.
Farmers who lost nearly 45 lakh coconut trees are yet to remove the fallen trees. They are sitting with fingers crossed with respect to their future. Fishermen who lost boats and nets are yet to venture into sea and hence have lost their livelihood. This is the big picture at the end of 2018.
In normal circumstances, farmers would have started harvesting ‘samba’ crop by this time hoping to celebrate Pongal happily on January 14. Coconut farmers would have completed two times harvest of nuts in the year. Sugarcane farmers who cultivated chewing sugarcane would be hoping to make a good sale for Pongal. With everything normal, youth of the district would be preparing their bulls for jallikattu. But it was not so this year. Everything is now in a subdued note, post-Gaja.
While government’s response in providing relief and rehabilitation was lukewarm initially, it has picked up now. But before that people responded quickly and reached relief to cyclone-affected extensively. Bringing normality in the lives of lakhs of farmers and fishermen will depend upon the follow-up governmental measures, both short-term and long-term.
Earlier to Gaja, which struck on November 15 and 16, copious showers in Karnataka brought surplus water to Tamil Nadu but much of the water was drained into sea with poor water resource management. Lack of maintenance of water bodies which can be used for storing water resulted in letting water into sea. Surplus water in some areas and scarcity in tail-end areas became a reality. People in one area expressed concern over wasting of water, people in tail-end areas wailed water had not reached.
Opening of Mettur dam on June 12 heralds the cultivation year normally in Thanjavur district. But it could not be opened on the scheduled date in 2018 due to poor storage at Mettur dam. The dam was opened on July 19. Farmers skipped Kuruvai, short-term crop in canal irrigated areas this year also. (There was no ‘kuruvai’ for the past six years). They started samba cultivation, but Gaja submerged crops in some areas and the loss in yield will be known when the crop in remaining area is harvested.
Though the Supreme Court has given its final order on Cauvery, the issue continued to dominate this year also following Karnataka’s proposal for constructing a dam at Mekedatu and subsequently Central government giving its permission for the detailed project report of the dam. Farmers were up in arms against the permission of the centre and agitations went on at many places.
Tsumai struck Tamil Nadu coast in December 2004. But damage was not much in Thanjavur district as it had not affected Palk Straits. But ‘Gaja’, which is described as mini-Tsumai, has caused severe damage in areas along the Palk Straits, namely Pattukottai, Peravurani and Sethubavachathiram, Adhirampattinam etc. With people in these areas suffering due to Gaja cyclone, national cultural programme-Salangai Natham- organised by the South Zone Cultural Centre at Thanjavur every December has been postponed. “This we did to share the grief of cyclone affected,” said M. Balasubramonian, director of South Zone cultural centre....