Canal modernisation work progresses in fits and starts

124 regulatory structures are to be modernised, 25 to be rehabilitated

With just about 25% of the work on renovation and modernisation of Kattalai High-Level Canal (KHLC), a major irrigation canal in Karur and Tiruchi districts, having been completed so far, the project might overshoot its scheduled completion period by next year.

The State government had sanctioned the extension, renovation and modernisation of the KHLC at an estimated cost of ₹335.50 crore, fulfilling a long-felt need of farmers.

The KHLC, a contour canal built in 1934, carries water from the Cauvery river at Mayanur in Karur district to Thayanur in Tiruchi district, a distance of about 62 km, and irrigates 23,774 acres in the two districts. Of this, 20,186 acres are in Karur district and the rest in Tiruchi district.

The work has been progressing in fits and starts after former Chief Minister Edappadi K.Palaniswami laid the foundation stone for the project in March 2020. Although it is scheduled to be completed within two years, the non-Mettur season (when the dam is closed for irrigation) offers the crucial window period during a year when the work can be taken up in full swing.

Exodus of workers

The work made slow progress after exodus of migrant labourers to their home States during the lockdown last year. Although the PWD managed to mobilise labourers locally subsequently, it did not get much time to execute the work as water had to be released in the canal for samba paddy cultivation and the standing cash crops.

According to sources, retaining walls have been constructed for about 22 km on three stretches so far. Difficulties in sourcing materials and the intense lockdown over the last few weeks have also affected the works. The works are apace over the past few days. However, with the Mettur dam set to be opened for irrigation on June 12, the PWD is left with just about three weeks more this year when the work can be executed. “We hope to continue the work till the end of this month, but once the Mettur water reaches the delta, there will be calls from farmers here for release of water into the canal,” an official said.

Only next year

The work would resume only next year when the Mettur dam is closed for irrigation by January. But even then there will be farmers’ demands for release of some water in irrigation canals to meet the requirements of standing cash crops, officials point out.

Farmers dependent on the canal, especially those in the tail-end areas, have been demanding modernisation of the KHLC as they had been facing problems getting water for irrigation every season over the past several years.

Of the 174 such regulatory structures on the canal, 124 are to be modernised and 25 rehabilitated under the project. Apart from construction of retaining walls, concrete bed lining would be provided along the canal, except in leading canals. Once the project is completed, the system efficiency is expected to improve to 60% from the current 40.43%, the PWD has projected.

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