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Thursday, Oct 10, 2002

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Rains revive hopes for Cauvery delta farmers

R. Balaji


SCATTERED rains in the Cauvery delta areas in the last two days have helped revive farmers' hope but are not a cause for jubilation. Assuming that the monsoon is normal, judicious water management is needed to salvage the remnants of the current season, farmers' representatives told Business Line.

According to Mr G. Kanakasabai, President, Tiruchi District Cauvery Delta Farmers Association, farmers who had given up all hope of commencing cultivation during the current Samba season have started field preparations. But even hoping that the monsoon holds, the season is nearly two months delayed and the standing crop will be left without water during its maturing season. The crucial irrigation needed prior to harvest will not be available, he felt.

It is crucial that the powers-that-be prevail upon Karnataka to release some quantum of water to supplement the monsoon for the crop to be salvaged. While the monsoon may be expected to last for about two months, the Samba crop is generally of 4 - 5 months duration. If the water is not available then, the farmers stand to loss more than if they had not commenced cultivation, he said.

Water will be needed in the final stages, and efforts will have to be directed to obtaining and managing the required quantity of irrigation water, he said.

Mr S. Ranganathan, General Secretary, Cauvery Delta Farmers Welfare Association, said the rains have helped the direct sown seeds to sprout. But the fate of the crop is in the irrigation that only Karnataka can provide by releasing Cauvery water.

Normally, the crop would have been about 60 days old, and well established in the fields to meet the monsoon. But now the seeds have just begun to sprout, and in areas where direct sowing has not been done, the farmers have commenced land preparation. Direct sowing of paddy seeds without raising nurseries is in vogue in areas like Mannargudi and Thiruthuraipoondi.

Even optimistic estimates set the area covered under direct sowing at 40,000 acres. Several lakh acres of land are awaiting the season to commence, he said.

Even if the monsoon runs its normal course of 70 - 80 days, the Samba crop is generally about 145 days long and canal water will be needed to see the crop through.

With Mettur supply likely to be stopped in a day or two, the rains may help the crop to establish in the initial stages.

If water was unavailable at later stages, the farmers would have raised crop for the fodder requirement but not paddy. Efforts will have to be directed at convincing Karnataka, he said.

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