Monday, 4 July 2016

Bezwada Anicut

It was a decision to irrigate the Krishna delta with the waters of the great river nearly 150 years ago that brought prosperity to Vijayawada city, once an insignificant village on its banks.There was a famine and there were starvation deaths. Almost 40 per cent of the population succumbed to the drought conditions. But even during this time, the Krishna was "three-fourths full".

Major Beatson, an officer of the East India Company, first called attention to the facilities for irrigation in Kistna district. The next year an astronomer was sent to investigate the subject. He took some levels, but he died in Machilipatnam in 1796. Nobody bothered about tapping the potential of the river for nearly four decades. The terrible famine in 1832 aroused interest in it again, but even after the famine it took two decades to build the anicut. Captain Buckle prepared the first report in favor of a dam across the river in 1839. Only after Sir Arthur Cotton of the Godavari anicut fame approved the views of a few more engineers who made surveys was the project sanctioned, on January 5, 1850. The dam construction started in 1852 and completed in 1855.

According to the 1881 Census, the population of 

  • Bezawada (now Vijayawada) 82,895
  • Nuzvid 1,25,165
  • Nandigama 1,07,288
  • Gudivada 1,28,791
  • Guntur 1,36,083
  • Bandar (now Machilipatnam) 1,75,482

Gordon Mackenzie, the Collector of "Kistna", chronicled in 1883 that the East India Company constructed the Bezwada anicut, the first dam across the Krishna, in 1852. Caption Charles Alexander Orr, who supervised the construction of the dam, in his report submitted on August 9, 1885, said that it cost Rs.7,48,765 to build the dam. 

The anicut lasted its full life of one hundred years and breached in 1952. The existing Prakasam barrage was built in 1954-57 and a road bridge was constructed on it a couple of years later, making Vijayawada a road and railway junction in Andhra Pradesh.

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