Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/76

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Cotton
Cotton
64

country is thus a network of streams. This system was in full operation when Tanjore became a British province; but in 1828 it was found that the system was seriously endangered by the increasing tendency of the Cávery waters to flow down the Coleroon, deserting the southern branch and its dependent branches and channels. In these circumstances Cotton, then a captain of engineers, was placed in charge of the works in Tanjore and the adjoining districts, with orders to suggest a remedy. The result of his investigations, prosecuted with great care and extended over several years, was completely successful. His plan embraced the construction of two dams or anicuts, the first at the head of the Coleroon, which had the effect of turning a portion of its waters into the Cavery on the right, and at the same time securing an abundant supply for the land in the Trichinopoly district on the left. The second was a still larger work, seventy miles lower down the Coleroon, which intercepted the water still flowing down that river and provided an adequate supply for the southern division of South Arcot.

These works, both of considerable magnitude, were built in the winter of 1835-6, in the brief season of the cessation of freshes in the river. They were built at a most critical time; for in 1837 a failure of the rains took place, which, without the new works, would have caused immense loss to the people and to the government. The great utility of the works was at once realised. The principal collector of Tanjore, writing to the board of revenue in 1838, declared that there was 'not an individual in the province who did not consider it (the upper anicut) the greatest blessing that had ever been conferred upon it,' at the same time expressing his conviction that 'the name of its projector would in Tanjore survive all the Europeans who had been connected with it.'

The financial returns of the works were such as have seldom resulted from any public undertaking. It appears from a report made forty years after the construction of the anicuts, that the annual profit on the capital expended was, in the case of the upper anicut, 69 per cent., and in that of the lower anicut nearly 100 per cent. The increased value of private property, due to the works, was equally large, while in seasons of scarcity not only have these districts been preserved from the horrors of famine, but they have been able to pour large supplies of food into the adjoining districts.

In 1845, or ten years after the construction of the Coleroon anicuts, Cotton laid before the Madras government a project for building an anicut across the Godávery river a few miles below the town of Rájahmundry. The Godávery district, then called the Rájahmundry district, was at that time in a most depressed condition. Not many years before it had gone through a terrible famine, the people were impoverished, and the revenue was always in arrears. The district was mainly dependent for its revenue upon a precarious rainfall, and upon tanks depending upon that rainfall.

Here again was a magnificent river flowing through the district, having its source in the western Gháts, fed by the almost unfailing south-west monsoon, and only needing the exercise of the genius which had brought prosperity to Tanjore and Trichinopoly, to convey its waters over the land on either side of it. The work was one of greater magnitude, and presented more serious difficulties, than the works on the Cávery and Coleroon. The total breadth of the river at the point at which it was decided to build the anicut was 6,287 yards, or more than three miles and a half. The stream, however, was divided by three islands, which reduced the length of those portions of the dams having their foundations in the bed of the river to 3,946 yards or 2¼ miles. Even so it was a stupendous work, the Dowlaishwaram branch of the anicut being alone of greater length than the two Coleroon anicuts put together. Moreover, unlike Tanjore and Trichinopoly, the Godávery district was comparatively destitute of irrigation channels, while in high floods the river overflowed its banks, and flooded the surrounding country.

The anicut which was begun in 1847 took five years to construct. It included, as a subsidiary work, an aqueduct built to conduct water over the tidal part of the river to a fertile island near its mouth.

The Godávery irrigation channels were to a considerable extent so constructed as to be available for navigation. At the present time the navigable channels in the Godávery delta are 528 miles long, while the total length of the distributive channels is 1,600 miles. The financial returns of the works, as represented by interest on capital, are, owing to their unavoidably greater cost, considerably less than those received from the Cavery and Coleroon works. They are variously computed at from 12•69 to 14•92 per cent., according to the method of calculation observed. This is by no means unsatisfactory as a return upon a public work, and in the far more important matter of the effect of the works upon the prosperity