Like most of my posts claim, I am an avid biker. I ride for the thrill of it. I ride while I still can. My latest conquest was my trip down to my native. I was born in a village called Mannargudi, an hour's drive from Thanjavur. It was our annual Sadhas. This when we have every possible pandit associated with our annual sadhas, meet up in our village. We host the show and cover every one's expenses and livelihood for a span of 3 days. It's an event to behold. I've never missed it in the past couple of years. This time was special. I had company. Usually its a bunch of octogenarians trying to pass for middle-aged men completely in control of the situation. This time, I was going to help them out. i was going to help them keep their wits. My plan, surprise my thatha and his siblings with my latest conquest. I decided to ride down to Mannargudi. A mere 300 km one way. I now have a 600 km trip under my belt. But lets not completely stray from the title. This blog is dedicated to the cause my Thatha is married to (apart from my patti). This is about what I realized I have been missing through all these trips to Mannargudi. Thnajavur and its surrounding villages constitute the delta region. The triangular reigon of land where the river Cauery deposits all its rich alluvial soil before uniting with the sea at Nagapattinam. The whole belt is considered to be the best suited region for paddy cultivation. The reasons being
1. The abundant water that the Cauvery brings
2. The copious rains during the South-west monsoon
3. The strength of the uninhibited sun
4. Soil so rich, it is rumored to revive a dead plant
But the truth is, the whole livelihood of the delta region is completely dependent on the river. the sun is more a nuisance than a support. And the rains are almost always the cause for the farmer's misery. There is almost nothing there for a farmer to do in the delta when there is no water. Droughts hit them hard. Floods never drown their miseries. They are often and they just drown the crops. The water is the farmer's life and it it is his death. A field if either not irrigated at the right time, or over irrigated at any point of time, will have irrevocable damage on both the crops and the farmer.
The river is the backbone of the entire belt - the soil for all the nutrients and water for irrigation. The Cauvery happens to flow through Karnataka where the flow of the river is interrupted at 12 places with "anicuts" or dams (damns) for irrigation.
Now back to my ride. My route was probably the most picturesque. The moment I leave Karur, I am greeted by the vast expanse of the "Ahanda"(Wide) Cauvery near Petavaithalai. All the way from Karur to Trichy, the Cauvery guides me. If I can't see her from beyond all the greenery she has helped sprout, I can hear her flow through a series of twists and turns and cascades. She is a wonder. The scene is wonderful, but I can't enjoy it. My senses are high on the watch for the million lorries that ply down that way. For a road that small and a city that that does not do a lot of construction, there is an awful lot of lorry traffic. At one point of time, just before Trichy, I had counted 259 lorries. I had crossed each one of them with the ease of a heart surgeon at work. I felt they kicked up a lot of dirt. I was confused. The road certainly did not have so much dirt. But half way to Trichy, I had enough dirt on me to make me feel 10 kilos heavier.
As most of us are aware, there is a long term tiff between Tamilnadu and Karnataka over the "sharing" of the Cauvery water. Karnataka wants the water for its own "purposes". Tamilnadu needs the water to save the livelihood of over 40,00,000 people, who are completely dependent on Cauvery. Water from the Cauvery is what will keep them from committing suicide. This is how important the river is to the people in the delta.
When I shook the dirt off me, I realized it was not dirt. It was sand. Sand from the bed of the river. The 259 lorries I had counted were looting the sand from the river bed for "corporate constructions". This is a large scale commercial scam that "legally" allows a license holder to extract a specified quantity of sand from the river for "construction". What these people so "legally" avoid is that from Karnataka to about a few miles before the sand quarry, the river bed is, for example, 5 feet from the road level. In the sand quarry region, for a stretch of at least 30 kilometers, the river bed is, again for example, 15 feet from the road-the bed has been robbed of the soil the river brings with it. Again, beyond the quarry, the level of the bed rises. A deep turf has been caved on the river bed. Water that is released from Karnataka has to reach the delta in time for irrigation. If the water is released 2 days in advance, it takes 4 days for the water to reach the delta as it collects in the hole the moles have dug. The water that is logged in the dug out trench is lost for ever. It is stagnant and evaporates. There is so much that can be done with a little water in the delta.
The lorries take turns in getting filled with the sand from the bed. I counted 6 lorries on the river bed. This was the tail that was visible outside the thick growth of coconut trees that hid the rest of the lorries from view. Some lorries lay wait for a minimum of a fortnight in queue for their chance to dig the grave for the next farmer's family. The demand for sand is so. This is all but a large scale commercial scam. If you hear any politician promising the farmers anything, remember, there is nothing but a scam in everything they promise. We do not have an enemy outside the state. It takes close to 100 years for a boulder to become cultivable soil. We now remove it in less than 15 minutes. When there is not enough sand depth, water does not percolate into the underground rivers. Ground water level does not improve. No more water for irrigation when the Cauvery is dry.
Help the farmers...Support their cause...Oppose sand quarrying...Oppose politicians who know nothing beyond their stomachs!!!!! GOD SAVE THE WORLD!!!!!!!!!