Ramanathapuram district is one of the driest districts in the state and most of its water needs are met only through monsoon rain. In some of the places ground water level is comparatively higher and in such places farming is carried out even during lean periods.
However, in the last two years there was severe shortage of rainfall and drought in the district. The dry situation had forced many farmers to abandon farming.
Adding to the woes of the farmers the shrimp farms too destroy their livelihood by polluting the ground water and destroying the fertility of the land. Arul, a farmer from Ariyankundu near Tiruppullani, which was once badly damaged due to shrimp farming, explained that shrimp farms that were established in their village were shut down gradually as the business was not profitable.
But in the recent months the shrimp business had become lucrative and hence the prawn farm owners had returned to their business. Now they had started threatening farm owners to sell their land by letting untreated water into the farms. This damages the crops and the land, explains Arul. Senthil, an environment activist from Rameswaram, pointed out that the shrimp farms use several chemicals in the water to protect the shrimps from diseases. When this water is left into the ground, it pollutes the soil. Apart from that the shrimp farms use 60 percent of fresh water and 40 percent of sea water.
Another problem with the business is that large amounts of fresh water is pumped from the ground. As a result, there is intrusion of sea water. Already the villages look deserted as many have left. If this business is allowed to thrive, many would leave the villages, said Senthil.
When officials of Fisheries Department were contacted they claimed that they were not aware of the issue and would look into it immediately.