Tamil Nadu stares at a Historic Drought – Sacrifices from All Need of the Hour

With a lot of pain we write the post today as a Historical Drought is staring on the face for Tamil Nadu as a state.  With the failure of Northeast Monsoon 2016 as well along with the poor rains over Kerala & South Interior Karnataka during  the Southwest Monsoon 2016 the reservoirs in the state are close to dead storage levels.  We have given a comparison of reservoir levels of some of the major reservoirs of the state over the past few years to give an idea how bad the situation in Tamil Nadu is evolving into.

All the major dams are seeing its lowest levels in the last decade or so with the two largest dams of the state Mettur & Bhavani Sagar currently having a combined storage of about 6% of the overall Storage Capacity.  As things stand we are likely to face a very very hard 7 months or so with next to little chance of storage improving in almost all of these reservoirs.  Taking into account the evaporation losses during the summer things look extremely grim.

While on the long term we need to look at Alternate Agricultural practices both in terms of what we cultivate and how we irrigate there are a few points which we need to think about in the current year.

  1. Mettur reservoir is unlikely to be opened during its traditional June opening date.  With the storage levels in Karnataka Dam levels equally bad we are unlikely to see Mettur receive improve storage until possibly the peak Southwest Monsoon for this year i.e. July 2017
  2. River Fed Areas of Delta & downstream Cauvery Basin should stay away from Farming activities until things improve to prevent further worsening of financial plight of marginal farmers.  Government should possibly look into this and take proactive steps in mitigating the financial conditions of affected farmers.
  3. In the long term interests Delta farmers should look into the possibility of foregoing the Kuruvai Season to build sufficient storage in the reservoirs
  4. Government should possibly look at reducing water intake by Power Plants / Large Industrial Factories in order to prioritise drinking water needs.  Drinking Water Needs should take foremost priority this year
  5. Government should take up large scale desilting of the water bodies under the Rural Employment scheme this year to improve actual storage in water bodies.  This will provide long term benefits as well along with providing employment opportunities in the near term.

In the long run both the Cauvery Basin state needs to sit together and chalk out a plan to reduce coverage of Water Intensive Crops like Paddy & Sugarcane.  Viable Farming practices incorporating millets should possibly be looked into.  Intensive Water Guzzling crops in both Upstream & Downstream is unsustainable in the long run.

Things dont look great either for Chennai with the lake levels providing drinking water to the city at their lowest in the last decade.  After a record monsoon 2015 when we saw the lakes almost at full capacity we are roughly above 10% of the overall storage.  Chennai though could fall back on the two De-Salination Plants at Minjur & Nemili to mitigate the situation.  Considering the current status of storage at Kandaleru, Somasila and SriSailam if possible Government of Tamil Nadu should look at requesting a bit of helping hand from the Government of Andhra Pradesh as well.  This will go a long way in helping Chennai tide over drinking water crisis this summer.

As citizens of the Tamil Nadu & Chennai it is now the time for us to look at our water usage closely and reduce as much as possible.  Time for us to turn off those water guzzling showers early, setting right leaking water pipes, reduce usage of water for Washing Cars /  Gardens etc. Each liter of water we all collectively save will help us during the Summer

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