A drive to Arumbanur, a village in Madurai east block, proves that the impact of summer is heavy on the district. Paddy, banana and coconut fields enroute wear a parched look and green turned into arid brown.
Most tanks are dry between April, May and June. The farmers in the village say that they are waiting for rain. Even some perennial waterbodies are now bearing the brunt of the poor rainfall. Vinayagar oorani (pond) in Arumbanur is one such.
C. Chinnapandi, a 68 year-old-resident of the village, says there was a time when the perennial pond stood unfazed in summer. Pointing to the waterbody, he says, “Until two years ago, this oorani near the village’s Ganesh Temple always had clear water. Cowherds used to bring their cows here and let them cool off. Many residents would come here to wash their clothes. Since it is not attached to the temple, people of all caste and creed would come here for their chores.”
P. Rajendran, a local coconut farmer, says that the pond which comes under the care of the Panchayat Union has also been used as a fishery.
“Every year, the Panchayat Union conducts an auction of the pond and the villagers who win the auction will use it as a fishery. It is not for any private contractor. After sharing the earnings from the fishery, the profit goes to the village development fund where we spend money for local temple festivals. We would also use the money to support families from poor economic backgrounds, particularly those from the Scheduled Caste community,” he says.
However, over the past two years, the water scenario in the village had changed drastically, he says. The pond which used to be filled to its brim has now been reduced to a four-foot watering hole which is slimy and mossy.
Residents still come to bath their cows but the summer has left the water being reduced to a trickle.
One can also spot the intrusion of plastic in their lives as bottles, polythene covers and snack packets are strewn in the corners.
“The pond’s water quality until 10 years ago was great. It used to be clean and rich in minerals. People used to use it for drinking. We were not dependent on any other source. Water for agriculture now comes from the Periyar-Vaigai basin,” he says. The drought in 2016 has left a dent in the village’s water sources.
The village panchayat Secretary, M. Prathiba says, “The village has four bore-wells for drinking water but that is still not enough. It is slowly getting tough but we will be able to manage this summer,” she says.
The villagers say that the only solution is to store rainwater and use it throughout the year. They add that the people and the panchyat members are discussing the possible alternatives to restore the pond to its original status.“We hope that by next year, we will have a viable solution,” adds Rajendran.