Salem (TN): Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami on Sunday inaugurated desilting work in Mettur Dam, taken up as part of efforts to augment water resources in view of the drought faced by the State.
Palaniswami launched the work by removing silt, the first ever such exercise in the 83-year old history of the reservoir across the Cauvery river, using a spade.
The exercise is expected to help store about ten per cent additional water in the dam, which caters to the irrigational needs of farmers in the Delta districts.
Mettur MLA S Semmalai, who belongs to the rival AIADMK (Puratchi Thalaivi Amma) camp headed by O Panneerselvam, did not participate in the event, claiming he was not invited.
He, however, welcomed the initiative.
Officials of Public Works Department, which is the executing agency for the work, said the desilting work would enhance the resources for the farmers' livelihood and augment water storage in the dam.
Local officials told PTI here that as many as 2,192 farmers in and around Mettur region had submitted applications seeking removal of silt from the dam for farm usage.
As on date, the storage in the dam is 21 feet as against the maximum of 120 feet.
Mettur dam officially called Stanley Reservoir was commissioned in 1934, the work for which started in 1925.
Palaniswami had yesterday said at Yercaud that works including desilting and strengthening of bunds of various water bodies had been taken up under the Rs 100 crore "Kudimaramathu scheme". It was nearing completion in 1,539 lakes.
Referring to Palaniswami's remarks that the silt was being given away free of cost to farmers, Semmalai said there was no appropriate "monitoring mechanism" to ensure that it reached only the intended beneficiaries.
"Not only the silt, (the removal of which alone is allowed), but also the river sand is taken away by sand mafia in several locations," he alleged.
Asked why he did not participate in the event, Semmalai told PTI that he was not invited. "Yet, I considered going there since the event was being held in my constituency. However, I dropped the idea since I did not want to embarrass government officials."
Electricity Minister P Thangamani, Higher Education Minister K P Anbazhagan, Social Welfare Minister V Saroja, and top officials participated.