By S.T. Ravikumar
Mysore/Mysuru: The COVID-induced lockdown has thwarted Karnataka Water Resources Department’s annual summer dam and canal repair works project. Now is the time to scramble on a war-footing before the monsoon gains vigour. Preparations are on in full swing to handle heavy inflows to 13 major reservoirs across the State.
The reservoirs that are being readied to handle inflows include the Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) Dam in Mandya District, the lifeline of South Karnataka region and Tamil Nadu. As part of the preparations, a team headed by Water Resources Department Secretary Lakshmanrao Peshve visited KRS on July 15 to ascertain the readiness of the Dam to receive more water, especially in the months of August, September and October where the water level will be at its maximum like last year.
When the water level at KRS touched the 100 feet mark on July 8 this year, officials from Cauvery Neeravari Nigama Limited (CNNL) that manages the Dam had told Star of Mysore that they had utilised the lockdown time to repair and maintain the 173 crest gates so that they can receive more and more water till the Dam reaches its brim. The gates were also made ready to discharge water as and when the Dam reaches its maximum level of 124.80 feet.
Handling more inflows
Water Resources Department Secretary Lakshmanrao Peshve’s team was apprised of the works taken up by CNNL this year, especially during lockdown. The lockdown has had an adverse impact. In the months of March, April and May, CNNL officials prepare the Dam and canals in such a way that when monsoon waters come, it is handled properly.
The three-month period enables the Department to dig out rodents, snakes and bandicoots which have burrowed into the crevices on the structure leaving it weakened. After December and January months, water flow stops and the Dam structure becomes extremely dry.
Also, cracks are caused on the Dam structure due to excessive heat. If not repaired and restored, it is risky when the high-velocity water penetrates the cracks. The repair process is called grout — a thin mortar used for filling spaces such as the joints in masonry.
Repair protocol followed
This year, the unforeseen lockdown ate into repair operations, forcing the Department to forgo the usual tender process to identify contractors to finish the work on a war-footing with manual labour. However, the CNNL officials told Lakshmanrao Peshve’s team that the annual repairs were done as per the procedures and protocols laid down in the repair guidelines.
The team is expected to submit a report on the preparedness of the KRS Dam to the Internal Committee of Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) constituted by the Supreme Court. The Internal Committee comprises irrigation experts from the Cauvery Basin States of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry. The team had brought certain equipment with them to verify the claims made by the CNNL officials.
Other dams to be inspected
“No human activity occurred during the lockdown, restricting the Department’s regular work. We were also under lockdown. No surveying could be done and nothing could be monitored. There were no vehicles to go. Now things are moving in the right direction and we are inspecting other Dams in the State too,” Peshve told CNNL officials.
The team directed the CNNL authorities not to wait for Government order to release water from KRS crest gates. As it is monsoon season, the tail-end farmers will be expecting water for irrigation and also, water must be periodically released to Tamil Nadu as per the Supreme Court judgement. Officials were told to watch the inflow from the catchment areas in Kodagu and then manage the release as per the water release cycle.
Officials were also asked to keep an eye on Dam security by keeping the security force and the CCTV cameras up-to-date. The Dam security is managed by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). In case the State Government permits tourists to the Dam, officials must be ready with a plan to handle tourists too, they were told.
Shankaregowda, Chief Engineer, Irrigation Department, Superintending Engineer Vijay Kumar, Executive Engineer Raju and Assistant Executive Engineer Vasudev and other officials were present during inspection.