Sir Arthur Cotton, famous colonial British irrigation engineer revered by Indians

Sir. Arthur Cotton who built Dowleswaram barrage,

Statue of Sir Arthur Cotton. Dowleswaram Barrage, Andhra,India

During the colonial rule  under  the British East India company till 1857 from the middle of the 18th century  and later - after 1858 by the direct  British Crown, administration, London,  the exploitation of Indian resources  and the oppressive rule of the sub continent continued unabated. To the British rulers, India was a milk cow, generating vast revenue for the British treasury. The English Army and later the Police force struck terror among the natives However, there were scores of British - both officials and non officials who were very much despaired by the unjust British rule and were very much sympathetic toward the natives. There were many British engineers and administrators who worked hard to save the bad image of the British rulers and tried to repair their lapses. There were also scholars who exposed to the world the intellectual contributions of the Indians in various fields and their advanced languages and philosophical writings. As for the British Media and reporters, there were some dedicated professionals who brought to light the despicable way with which the British took over  the kingdoms ruled by the Maharajahs and Nawobs and paid least attention to the grievances of the ordinary people at times of natural calamity like cyclones, floods, famine, etc.

Sir Arthur Thomas Cotton KCSI (15 May 1803 – 24 July 1899) was a British general and irrigation engineer.   Born on 15 May 1803,

Dowleswaram/Godaveri barrage, Andhra

The bridge across the river Godaveri. An  elevated road going over the bridge to join it

Dowleswaram Barrage near Rajahmundry on River Godavari, Andhra.

the tenth son of Henry Calvely Cotton, aged 15, he became a cadet at the East India Company's military seminary at Addiscombe, Surrey. He passed out in December 1819, and was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Madras Engineer Group and and fought in the First Burmese War. He was knighted in 1861.

.Dowleswaram Barrage or Sir Arthur Cotton Barrage

Arthur Cotton  was the first engineer who conducted a marine survey of the Pamban passage between  India and Ceylon where  the famous Pampan railway draw bridge stands now  near Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu. Even to day it is an engineering marvel and a tourist attraction connecting the mainland and Rameswaram island. In the Kallanai - Grand Anaicut near Tiruchirapalli city, TN  built by the great Chola king  Karikala Cholan in the 2nd century (the oldest water-diversion or water-regulatory structure in the world),  excess silting  was a main problem. Cotton came up  with some suggestions to 

Grand Anaicu (Kallanai), TN (2nd C)

Above image:   Locally called Kallanai, the Grand Anicut (dam) was built across  the Cauvery River in the 2nd century by Chola king, Karikalan. This massive structure was later reinforced by the British under engineer Arthur Cotton. Grand Anicut is believed to be one of the oldest water-diversion structures in the world that continues to be functional  It is Thanjavur dist., and close to Tiruchy city...........................................

 remove the silting  to the minimum and increase the flow of water and storage capacity.  Appreciating the great monumental work of the great Chola king and using it as a model, Cotton   had built the Upper Dam (Upper anicut) across the  Cauvery in Mukkombu near Tiruchirapalli city, Tamil Nadu. The Krishna and Godavari dam projects in the present day Andhra were based on the models of Kallanai and and the upper dam across the Cauvery. river.  

The work on the Godavari Anicut / barrage  started in 1847 and completed at  Dowleswaram in 1852. The Dowleswaram Barrage was 15 feet high and 3.5 km long. He was instrumental in building an  Aqueduct on the  Krishna River that was  completed by 1855.

In 1840s' itself  he had prepared plans for Visakhapatnam port  based on the location, geography and depth of the bay  in that region. In 1858, Arthur cotton had an ambitious plan to interlink all rivers and  canals in the state of Odisa as part of drought relief measures.

Having retired from services in 1860, he was knighted in 1861 and left India for his native place. Subsequently he visited India and advised  the authorities on some river valley projects  that would be beneficial to the Indians. He is still a much  revered figure in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu for his contribution to  irrigation in the  delta regions  and other areas.

A new barrage  was built  across the  Godavari upstream side of the Anicut and was  aptly  named after Sir Arthur Cotton for his distinguished services in India. The barrage  was dedicated to the Nation by the Honorable Prime Minister of India, late Indira Gandhi in 1982 in honor of  Sir. Arthur Cotton.

 Tit Bits: The other side of the story is if you are honest, sincere and dedicated to your work, sometimes you will get into trouble. Being gentle, humane and a true Christian in spirit and action, Sir Cotton was very kind to the natives and understood their problems regarding water management, droughts, agriculture, etc and tried to mitigate them in his capacity as a well-known engineer. He was a true Christian and  used to attend the Church of the Godavari Delta Mission at  Rajahmundry, now a big city in Andhra. Unfortunately he earned the ire of the jealous  British officials and faced near  impeachment proceedings. His pioneering work across the Godavari river mitigated the ravages of famine and cyclones that affected the people of Godavari. Further, a vast track of land became cultivable  on account of the barrage.

About his Godavari projects in 1878, Cotton had to appear before a House of Commons Committee to justify his proposal to build an anicut across the big river. As part of the hearing, his letter to the then Secretary of State for India reveals his ambition to build the anicut across the Godavari. His letter concluded:

"My Lord, one day's flow in the Godavari river during high floods is equal to one whole year's flow in the Thames of London". Cotton was almost disappointed  by the British Government's careless delay  in implementing the project.

Sir Arthur Cotton's name will be remembered by every Indian till the world comes to an end. People of India loved him so much the  Pindaparadhanam (pinda) was offered as homage as per the Hindu tradition to Arthur Cotton during 2015 Godavari Maha Pushkaram by Palakollu MLA Nimmala Ramanaidu.

The tomb of Gen. Sir Arthur Thomas Cotton KCSI

Hope, Elizabeth; Digby, William (2005). General Sir Arthur Cotton his life and work. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services. p. 4. ISBN 81-206-1829-7