Tamil Nadu drought: Minister adopts bizarre way to prevent evaporation, floats thermocol sheets on Vaigai dam

Tamil Nadu is in the midst of the worst drought in 140 years but clearly there is no drought of ideas. With an eye on protecting the water from the evil eye of the sun at the Vaigai dam near Madurai, Minister for Cooperation Sellur K Raju, decided he would be a Kannagi with a difference.

Like the legendary Kannagi who took revenge on the Pandyan king of Madurai who had wrongfully put her husband to death, by cursing the city to go up in flames, Raju decided to take on the Sun God no less. His weapon: Sheets of thermocol. Spending a fortune — Rs 10 lakh, no less — to buy the several sheets of thermocol, Raju arrived at Vaigai dam on Friday to float those sheets on the water. The previous night, he must have imagined a sheet of white over the water, preventing the loss of even a drop of water. The plan was to spread the sheets over 200 sq.m of water surface, out of the 12 hectares of water-spread in the dam area.

Raju ban gaya scientist!


A minister in Tamil Nadu, on Friday, came up with the idea of floating thermocol sheets on Vaigai dam to prevent evaporation. Photo courtesy: TS Sudhir

But Raju in his Physics class at school, had forgotten to read the chapter on wind velocity. The moment he set the sheets free, they took a life of their own and flew in all directions. His partner in the thermocol project, Madurai collector K Veeraraghava Rao now wiser from the failed experiment, says the correlation between wind velocity and thickness of thermocol sheets will be studied in the future. Raju and Rao — the modern-day Wright brothers from Madurai — now want to invest in heavier thermocol sheets to fulfill their flight of fancy. The ones used on Friday were just 2 cm thick.

But for those assembled at Vaigai dam, it turned out to be a comedy show with Tamil Nadu threatening to become 'Thermocol Nadu'. Raju had thought the sticky government tape will be good enough to hold together the thermocol sheets, just like the stickiness quotient of power has kept the AIADMK legislators together since February. But he had not calculated that once the expensive thermocol was out in the open, the wind will raid the reservoir and the thermocol sheets will run helter-skelter.

As Raju and Rao found their experiment going down the drain, concerns that thermocol which is made of polystyrene beads, would harm marine life were expressed. However, the two 'water scientists' felt that raising environmental concerns was a ploy to fish in troubled waters.

Science journals point out that experiments to prevent evaporation have been conducted with thermocol but they have been on ice or static water in farm ponds, not on running water in an open area. Now if the heavier thermocol also does not work, the AIADMK minister has declared that he wants to experiment more. He could look at the Los Angeles precedent where in August 2015, 96 million black plastic balls, called shade balls were dumped into the reservoir to prevent water loss through evaporation. While the experiment worked, it was found way too expensive than the water it saved.

Having blown away Rs 10 lakh from the public exchequer, money is not expected to be a factor in Raju's laboratory.

Intention-wise though, Raju's heart was in the right place. As MLA from Madurai, he wanted to ensure that the Vaigai dam that is the major source of water to Madurai district, is protected. But then it also proved that the media narrative is spot-on. This AIADMK government is truly bhagwaan bharose.

Even though Raju may claim political immunity by saying he was taking on the rising sun, the symbol of the Opposition DMK, his carelessness in dealing with public money has proved to be an embarrassment. With Raju's experiment ended in a watery grave, the O Panneerselvam camp would do well to put one fresh condition for merger talks. Give Raju the thermocol treatment and drop him from the cabinet.

The small mercy is that this kind of an experiment was not conducted in February, when all the AIADMK MLAs were locked inside the Golden Bay resort at Koovathur, 60 km from Chennai. Otherwise, an inspired VK Sasikala may have asked all AIADMK legislators to wear thermocol veshtis to ensure her support base does not evaporate.

Updated Date: Apr 22, 2017 19:31 PM

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