Running water in Madurai, the big problem in the Cumbum Valley

Farmers are fuming that a city’s drinking water needs are taking precedence over the irrigation of an entire district

One of the important towns of Theni district, Cumbum is the gateway to Kerala and the main trading center for fertilizers, seeds and agricultural tools for cardamom, pepper and hill crops grown in the district neighbor of Idukki, which relies heavily on labor and materials from across the border. .

One of the main grievances of the residents of Theni district concerns the Mullaperiyar drinking water project, which aims to bring water from the lower camp on the foothills of the western ghats to Madurai city. The ₹1,295.76 crore project, which falls under the Atal Mission for Urban Rejuvenation and Transformation, aims to supply an additional 125 MLD of water to the city through 37 above-ground reservoirs.

Pipelines are being laid for 98 km – from Lower Camp to Pannaipatti in Dindigul district where a water treatment plant will be installed and another 54 km long pipeline to Madurai. Giant pipes are seen on the roadside from Andipatti to Seelayampatti near Chinnamanur. Residents of Theni district ask why water is piped to Madurai when it can be carried by rivers and used along the way.

If the project is successful, it will lead to the desertification of the rich Cumbum Valley, they fear. Farmers’ organizations also staged a protest in Cumbum against the design of an ‘additional’ water project for Madurai without hearing the views of farmers who stand to lose. Additionally, Madurai can always get more water by building a dam near Uthappanaickanur, or by increasing the Vaigai Dam storage by lifting silt.

According to T. Pandi, owner of a studio in Cumbum, in the absence of transparency, farmers in Theni district are worried about their prospects for irrigation and whether the ultimate beneficiaries will be companies like beverage majors. carbonated and other water consumers and not the residents of Madurai.

The municipality of Cumbum with 33 wards has some civic issues like the health hazard posed by mounds of trash near the ‘Captain’ ground, lack of streetlights and mast lights on the dangerous road junction bypass near Nataraj’s wedding hall.

People who have been disappointed with TT Sivakumar of AIADMK in municipal affairs in the past might prefer to sit MP N. Ramakrishnan, the DMK district secretary of Theni South this time. Mr. Ramakrishnan is perceived to be friendly. It is also reinforced by the fact that the AIADMK was only able to win one of the four Assembly constituencies last year, as party coordinator O. Panneerselvam was elected in Bodi.

Against the trend

Nearby, the 21st district of Gudalur, which was transformed from a city panchayat to a municipality in 2004, surprises every time. The first president was from DMK. In the 2011 elections, R. Arunkumar was elected on a DMDK ticket but he soon defected to the AIADMK. Now there is even talk of the BJP making inroads into this border town.