Citing poor storage, the Tamil Nadu government today ruled out opening the sluice gates of Mettur Dam on June 12 for 'kuruvai' (short-term) paddy crop in the Cauvery delta, but announced a Rs 115 crore package to help farmers take up cultivation using available water resources.
The dam, built across the Cauvery river which is the lifeline of farmers in delta districts in the state, is opened on June 12 annually for irrigating the short-term crop, but the traditional date had been missed on several occasions in the past too due to inadequate storage.
Chief Minister K Palaniswami, in a statement in the Assembly, said the sluice gates of the dam in Salem district would not be opened on June 12 due to low storage and blamed Karnataka for not releasing Cauvery water last year, resulting in the lower realisation of water.
He said against the dam's maximum level of 120 feet, the water level in the reservoir presently stood at 39.42 feet and it can be opened only if the water level reached 90 feet.
He then announced the package for farmers, which included subsidies on seeds and farm equipment and other initiatives to enable farmers take up 'kuruvai' cultivation in around three lakh acres of land.
However, this did not cut ice with the opposition parties which walked out of the assembly.
Leader of the Opposition M K Stalin of DMK criticised the chief minister's statement on inability to open the Mettur dam according to schedule and then led a walkout of his party legislators. Stalin had been demanding release of water from the dam on June 12.
Earlier, Palaniswami said water could not be released from the dam on June 12 for the last six years due to storage issue and recalled that chief minister J Jayalalithaa had announced similar packages.
Palaniswami also said that he himself had announced a Rs 56 crore package last year.
The ryots in the delta districts have, however, ensured good harvest between 2012 and 2016, producing five lakh tonnes of paddy in 2016, he said.
Underlining the 'Amma (Jayalalithaa) government's' commitment on the Cauvery issue, he referred to the Centre recently constituting the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CMA) to address the water-sharing dispute among Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry.
The chief minister also said that AIADMK MPs led by Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai had met Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari on June 6 and handed over to him a letter by him seeking that the CMA be made operational immediately.
Palaniswami listed out various instances during DMK's rule when water could not be released from Mettur dam on June 12, while trying to drive home the point that only the storage level determines the release.
The Rs 115 crore package announced by him included supply of 12 hours of three-phase electricity to farmers, 90 per cent subsidy for solar-powered pump sets and subsidy on diesel engines for farmers who have no power connection.
The chief minister also proposed various proposals for farm labourers that would be covered under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) scheme.