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reception to be met with, alike from liveried porter, from gentlemanly clerk, and from distinguished secretary; but there are times when such an ordeal may be faced, and when we may be rewarded by something even of greater interest than the last Society novel.
If, attracted by the photographs and maps in which this volume is rich, the visitor is enticed to dip into the narrative they illustrate, we can promise him that he will have his reward. It is a chapter of Indian history familiar enough to those on the spot too familiar, strange to say, to some of our highest authorities—and it is one which needs only to be more widely known so to react on public opinion that its lessons shall not be lost. For we learn here how within the last fifty years a great district covering 3000 square miles, which fifty years ago was in so deplorable a condition as to compel the active intervention of the authoritiesdecimated by famine, and with population and revenue decreasing year by year-has been permanently converted into a rich and prosperous province, with province, with revenue and population steadily increasing, and which, when famine visits the land, serves as a granary for starving districts on every side. Of the twelve short chapters into which the story is condensed the two first contain a brief but clear and interesting sketch of the geography of the Godavery delta, and of the original plans for the utilisation of the waters of the great river for the twofold purpose of irrigation and navigation. In the succeeding chapters, from the third to the ninth, we have the detailed history of the works carried out in the delta, and a deeply interesting history it is, -notwithstanding its necessarily technical character,—with its exVOL. CLXI.-NO. DCCCCLXXX.
citing incidents of varying success and failure, its full extracts from official correspondence, lifting the curtain upon bygone scenes of hot official warfare, of heroic struggles with disappointment and disaster, of battles with overmastering obstacles in storm and flood, in official mistrust and opposition, in sickness and exhaustion of physical strength. In the tenth and eleventh chapters are recorded the means by which the waters, finally bridled by human genius, have been compelled to serve for ever the double duty of irrigation and navigation, to the immense advantage of the country. Finally, in the twelfth chapter are summarised, with a brevity more eloquent than pages of comment, the net results of the works as affecting finance, revenue, population, cultivation, and communications. The theme is illustrated not only by statistical tables showing at a glance the results of the system at work, but by a series of clearly drawn maps and plans and of admirable photographs, enabling the general reader to realise vividly the nature both of the country itself and of the gigantic work whose history is here recorded.
Enthusiasm, it is well known, begets enthusiasm, and we prophesy with confidence that no reader-however little acquainted with India or with the mysteries of engineering science-will lay down this book without having caught something of the infection. of its hero's spirit, and sharing his earnest, almost pathetic, desire that its lessons should be applied throughout the length and breadth of India. It was in the year 1843 that the lamentable condition of the Godavery district, with its "decreasing population and dwindling revenue," "forced the Government into action." The "sad
case" into which it had fallen is thus concisely set forth :
"The abolition of the East India Company's factories and the competition of Manchester and other European looms had deprived it of nearly all its cloth trade; an unsuitable form of land-tenure, badly administered, pressed heavily on its cultivators; its few irrigation works were neglected; and it frequently suffered from droughts which withered the crops, or from floods which drowned them for the noble river which runs through the district, and now enriches it, then carried nearly the whole of its treasure of waters uselessly to the sea, or poured them in
destructive floods over the most fertile parts of its delta."
By a happy coincidence the government of the Presidency was at this time in the hands of a statesman of exceptional capacity; and at the same time, among the subordinates of the Public Works Department a young officer of the corps of Madras Engineers had just brought himself into prominent notice by his successful completion of a work of great difficulty and importance in the southern district of Tanjore, where the conditions were remarkably similar to those of the Godavery delta.
Sir Henry Montgomery, "one of the ablest of its servants," was deputed by the Madras Government to inquire into the causes of the decline of the Godavery district, and to advise as to remedial measures. He had himself been Collector of the Tanjore district, and his experience of the remarkable success which had been there achieved by bringing under efficient control the waters of the Cauvery river, led him to the opinion that "much could be done with the Godavery" in a similar
manner. He recommended that the officer by whom the Tanjore works had been carried out, Captain Cotton of the Madras Engineers (now General Sir Arthur Cotton, K.C.S.I.), should be deputed to the Godavery district to report on the subject. The hero of our romance now appears on the scene. In August 1844 Captain Cotton submitted his first report, from which dates the initiation of the work which has turned that great delta from a desert into a garden, by the simple, if arduous, process of directing and utilising the forces abundantly supplied by nature in the great river-system by which the district is traversed.
From the outset the story is not wanting in the elements of romance. One of the twelve holy rivers of India, the Godavery, in its uncontrolled state, is described by Sir Henry Montgomery as “a fearful stream, carrying before it all improvements in its course."
Rising 900 miles away, where "its first trickle issues through the mouth of a sacred idol," it is endowed with all the sanctity afforded by the shrines of the faithful dotted along its course, and with all the wild beauty of a passage through mountain defiles, till it expands at last into an ocean of sandy levels, and melts imperceptibly into the sea. For centuries this giant among the rivers of India had brought down only poverty and destruction instead of prosperity to the unfortunate people living within its influence,-alternately withholding the water on which depended the very necessaries of life, and overwhelming life and property in one widespread ruin. "Ravaged by great rivers " is the expression
The Marquis of Tweeddale.
used by a gifted Anglo-Indian writer of the districts of Lower Bengal in the last century, and one which well describes the condition of the Godavery district at the opening of our story. One need not have been in India to realise something of the scene of hopeless desolation which the district must have presented at this time, with its limitless flats of waste and water, sweltering under a scorching sun, unredeemed by shade of hill or vegetation, and with a sense over all of poverty and decadence and oppression by irresistible forces of nature.
But neither sentiment nor physical obstacles affected for a moment the judgment of the young expert, and Captain Cotton had not been long on the spot before he was able to open the eyes of the Government both as to the causes of the decline of the district and the nature of the remedies required. In an able and convincing report he showed that the district was, by soil, climate, and natural features, one of vast capabilities; that its decline was due solely to the failure to utilise its great natural advantages; and that if, following the precedent of the very similar district of Tanjore, a comprehensive scheme of irrigation were established, it could not be doubted that similar success would follow.
This initial report is of special interest, both in the clear light which it throws on the work to which it is the prelude, and on account of the insight we gain from it into the character of the principal figure concerned.
It is no part of our object here to sing the praises of those by whom this miracle of reclamation has been achieved; but it is impossible to dissociate from any
single act of the drama the conspicuous personality of the man who was from first to last its informing spirit, nor is there any need to minimise the credit due to one of the most eminent of English engineers. It was a daring scheme which this young officer had the courage to recommend (though we learn that a similar plan had been suggested by a kindred spirit half a century earlier)-viz., to stem by artificial means the course of a river four miles across, and to reclaim from the waste of centuries 800,000 acres of land; and this under a tropical sun and with the untrained labour of natives of the country.
Yet so complete is his confidence in the judgment he had formed, that he looks forward to the results with as much certainty as to those of some mathematical problem; his plans are laid as coolly as if the land to be treated were a home-farm of 1000 acres, and as if the cost of the work were to be reckoned in hundreds instead of in tens of thousands; while again and again the spirit of the man comes out in an enthusiasm which cannot be reThe strained. district 66
scarcely be surpassed by any part of the world" in its capabilities; "the whole tract is one noble expanse of rich alluvial land, fit for almost any cultivation;" and if only his plans may be adopted, "the last drop of water in the river may be brought to the surface of the country, so as to command the whole of this vast tract." No wonder that to such a mind, foreseeing clearly the ultimate triumph, considerations of immediate financial difficulty seemed of minor importance, and sums of £120,000 or £130,000 were regarded as "an absurdly small
sum" to devote to the object in view. In the later correspondence the true foundation, as we venture to think, of so much confidence and coolness is revealed in the simple and genuine piety of a singularly humble character. But caution, too, is coupled with foresight; for he foresees no less the opposition which such plans as his will meet, and claims earnestly that every objection shall be open and public, that he may have full opportunity to reply. He concludes by asking for means to explore the district thoroughly, considering it "one of those things one of those things impossible to explain," how a district with such immense natural advantages "should have greatly retrograded under our management."
The results of this exploration are set forth in a second report submitted eight months later-in which the nature of the country to be treated, of the treatment proposed, and of the results anticipated, are stated with force and clearness. We English are often congratulated on our capacity for dealing with strange countries and with alien races, and it is from such records as these that we may learn something of the secret of our success. In their simple eloquence they are models of what such letters should be, and, for all their official and professional character, they are full of interest even to the general reader-that personage so hard to capture and of so much importance.
"It required neither time nor attention," we are told, "to discover what was required" for this unhappy region; and so sure is the writer of his ground, that "it is rather the question of how a man may be best clothed and fed than whether he needs clothing and food." With the same character
istic and almost childish simplicity, he proceeds to explain that this is to be effected "by converting the water of the Godavery into money instead of letting it run into the sea."
The gigantic plan thus introduced might seem a doubtful project when it was seen that the river, across which a masonry dam was to be placed, was seven times the width of the widest part of the Mississippi; yet to this audacious dreamer the work proves on examination to be "practicable, simple, and easy," and he does not hesitate to promise, in addition to "a complete system of internal navigation," that "a famine in this or the neighbouring districts will be placed out of the range of probability."
He proceeds to consider possible objections and to estimate the cost of the work. And here, as we come upon the earliest forecast of the results, we cannot help turning, as in a novel, to the end, to compare fulfilment with prophecy. The interest of the intervening battle need not be diminished by a glimpse of the striking contrast thus presented between the figures "before and after." In 1847 there seems "a fair opening for an increase of revenue to the extent of 20 lakhs "; in 1894 we find the year's revenue 88 lakhs of rupees, in addition to receipts from local
taxation. And whereas at the outset the designer "would not be surprised" if the goods traffic on the projected waterways were to average 50 tons a-day, the actual traffic in 1893-94 was twenty times that amount. How this revolution has been brought about we have now to learn.
It is to the credit of Indian administration that these reports at once recognised as the work of no ordinary official. The
Collector of the district, the Chief Engineer of the Presidency, and the Government of Madras were at one in supporting Captain Cotton's proposals, and recommending to the Court of Directors an immediate allotment for the work of a sum of £50,000. The curtain falls on the first act with the sanction to the expenditure and commencement of the work.
As it rises again in the third chapter, we are introduced to the site and design of the great work; and if the record here becomes somewhat technical for the lay reader, its substance, which may be given in a few words, is surprising and interesting enough. For the site is the bed of a river nearly four miles wide (a bed of pure sand), broken at intervals by islands, the whole being swept by torrent of which the picture makes the brain swim to contemplate, for it is estimated at a million and a half cubic feet of water per second. Such being the site, the design of the work consists of a masonry dam or "anicut" 12 feet high from bank to bank, linked by embankments on the islands, the whole to be of such strength as to withstand not only the force of stupendous periodical floods, but the perpetual scouring of under-currents, and the shock of gigantic timbers borne down from the forests and dashed with great velocity against the works. Of the proportions of this huge barrier, some notion may be gained by the incidental statement of the quantities of rough stone thrown into the river below its face. "There can be no doubt," we read, "that one million tons of stone, in addition to that used in constructing the anicut, have had to be deposited below it to secure its safety."
But the by-play of the introduc
tion now gives place to the serious action of the piece, and the next chapter contains at length the history of the construction of the great dam, from the receipt of sanction in 1847 to its virtual completion in 1852. To the professional engineer a more exciting record could hardly be presented; and even the layman who has been enticed to follow the story so far, will almost have his breath taken away as he realises the scale of the work, and the conditions under which it was done. Only to look at the photographs which accompany this chapter, is to gain some idea of the herculean nature of the task so gallantly undertaken and so brilliantly executed-the enormous breadth of the river (of which the farther bank is hardly visible), and the dull featureless landscape broken only by the boatloads of country people, for whose benefit and by whose labour the entire work was executed.
And every page adds to the interest and excitement of the narrative, which suggests nothing so much as the despatches of a warcorrespondent. At one time a great siege seems to be in progress, with mine and countermine, sally and repulse; at another it is a hand-to-hand fight in the open against overwhelming odds, with thrilling alternations of hope and despair, and the lives and fortunes of millions depending on the issue. Now it is a war of Titans,-genius pitted against dulness, or against rival genius; and giants of indolence and self-seeking against heroic self-devotion. A civil war it was in truth, between departments of the same administration, — the revenue authorities with eyes fixed on the columns of the yearly budget; the engineers, under the command of a genius, fired with enthusiasm, looking to an ultimate