A Salute To The Britisher Who Gave Andhra Its “Rice Bowl”!

Born on May 15, 1803, he is still revered by many a farmer in the Konaseema.


The ‘Apara Bhageeratha’ envisaged Polavaram a long time ago, much before it began and fell into an endless pit of political mess. 


If it were not for his efforts, the region would have been in the grip of drought, and we would never have had a ‘Rice Bowl of Andhra’.


We curse the British for their tyrannical rule, but there were a few great people among them who wanted to serve the country they were posted in. Sir Arthur Cotton was one such man who, in his position as an irrigation officer, wanted to do as much to the region as he could. And he gave us every reason to be remembered.



In 1844 Cotton recommended the construction of Anicut across the river Godavari and simultaneously prepared plans for Visakhapatnam port. He had many plans for the development of a port in Vizag, one of which was to cover the beach with rocks to minimise the effect of  the waves, whilst his stay on Dolphin’s Hill.



He had to go to Australia in between due to illness. Even then he could not stop thinking about the irrigation plans for the Delta region. He returned to India in 1850 and was promoted to Colonel. He succeeded in completing the magnificent project on Godavari river at Dowleswaram, which was started in 1847, in 1852. It was Cotton’s idea of arresting the flow of Godavari water into the sea so that it could be diverged to the drought-stricken districts.



He could not see the plight of the poor villagers, and decided to help them out thus. He built a network of irrigation and navigation canals and linked the Krishna and Godavari rivers. In fact, he had to fight tooth and nail to get the requisite imperial sanction.



Cotton is still revered by Telugus for his contribution, and his dedication towards the development of the Konaseema into the Coromandel of Andhra Pradesh. He is conferred almost a demigod status, with some people also worshipping his pictures at their homes, in this region!



P.S: There is an interesting story about the time he went to attend an interview for an engineering post early in his career. There were three candidates, including himself. All that the selectors told them was to have a ‘good sleep’ and were provided three separate beds. The candidates did what they were told. While the other two candidates slept happily early on, poor Cotton could not get a wink of sleep until, after some time, he slept happily. The next day, all the three were asked if they slept happily by the selectors. While all the three nodded in the affirmative, Cotton added that he felt restless while on the bed—bending down, he realised that one of the four legs of the bed was a little high. To his surprise he found a pound coin beneath one of the legs, which he promptly removed. That was the catch set up by the selectors, and he was selected!

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