Land of plenty

Published : May 04, 2012 00:00 IST

West Godavari district, irrigated by two mighty rivers, is on the road to agricultural prosperity thanks to various schemes.

in Eluru

WEST Godavari district, nestling between the mighty Krishna and the Godavari rivers in the coastal Andhra region of Andhra Pradesh, finds itself on the road to prosperity. It is bounded by Khammam district in the north, East Godavari district in the east, the Bay of Bengal in the south and Krishna district in the west. According to the 2011 Census, the district has a population of 39,34,782, of which 19.74 per cent is urban.

Eluru, the district headquarters, was once part of the Buddhist kingdom of Vengi. The Eastern Chalukyas ruled the Andhra region with Vengi, now called Pedavegi, as their capital.

West Godavari district, with an area of 7,700 square kilometres, was carved out of the old Godavari district in 1925. The barrages built across the Godavari and the Krishna by Arthur Cotton, the British general and irrigation engineer, supply water from the two rivers through irrigation canals, bringing prosperity to the farming community in the delta region. West Godavari is endowed with three natural regions the delta, the upland and the Agency area. The district's landscape is picturesque. There are lush green agricultural fields, the Kolleru lake hosts a range of resident and visiting birds, and the Godavari meanders through the Papi hills.

Paddy, cultivated over 5.29 lakh acres (one acre is 0.4 hectare), is the principal crop in the delta region. This is followed by lemon and coconut. Aquaculture is also done on a large scale. Around 50 per cent of the State's rice stocks come from the district. Hence it is called the rice bowl of Andhra Pradesh. A large portion of the fish and prawns produced in over one lakh acres in the delta is exported to Bangladesh, Japan and the United States. Horticultural crops such as oil palm, mango, cashew and banana are grown in the upland region. West Godavari's tobacco, which is cultivated on 50,000 acres in the northern light soil (NLS) area, enjoys a special place in the international market for its unique flavour.

The district administration, headed by Collector G. Vani Mohan, is striving to achieve inclusive growth in the farm sector with the focus on tenant farmers, who do more than 80 per cent of the agriculture. The administration has distributed 85,000 loan eligibility cards (LECs) and arranged for the disbursement of bank credit worth Rs.80 crore to the cardholders during the kharif and rabi seasons.

The paddy procurement centres run by women volunteers of the Indira Kranti Padham (IKP) offer a helping hand to paddy growers, who used to be at the mercy of millers. The role played by the women in the purchase of more than 20 per cent of the total produce in kharif-2011 through 70 procurement centres operating side by side with private traders provided the growers the much needed relief from market shocks. The Collector told Frontline that the administration planned to increase paddy procurement in the next kharif season to five lakh tonnes, that is, nearly 50 per cent of the total produce.

The district has been passing through a critical phase on the agricultural front this year in view of the dwindling water levels in the Godavari, on the one side, and the acute drought conditions, on the other. The water crisis in the river has resulted in a crop holiday in 2.5 lakh acres in the delta in the rabi season, which means a steep fall in paddy production in the current rabi. The district administration stood by the farmers in handling the crisis, motivating them to switch to alternative crops and providing them seeds at subsidised rates. Fifteen mandals were declared drought-hit. Crops in five mandals, spread over 2,716 hectares, were damaged completely. The crop loans of drought-hit farmers have been rescheduled as part of the drought-relief measures. Over one lakh jobless farmhands have been provided employment in works, together worth Rs.5,920 lakh, taken up under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

A contingency plan has been drawn up to handle the drinking water problem arising out of the drought conditions. Ten delta mandals reeling under the crop holiday and 15 drought-hit mandals are prone to drinking water shortage. The Rural Water Supplies Department is planning to fill the summer storage tanks and supply water to the problem areas in tankers.

The official machinery is executing the Rs.1,400-crore delta modernisation project in mission mode. It aims at widening, deepening and strengthening canals and drains under the Vasista, Kolleru and Upputeru basins to save farmlands from devastating floods.

Indira Sagar Project

The district is poised to become a launch pad for another round of Green Revolution in the coastal region, with the Indira Sagar Project under construction across the Godavari near Polavaram. The project is designed to irrigate 7.2 lakh acres in East Godavari, West Godavari and Krishna districts, apart from transferring the river's waters to the Krishna while augmenting drinking water supply in Visakhapatnam, through the Right Main Canal and the Left Main Canal. The administration is implementing the relief and rehabilitation (R&R) package for 21,800 project oustees from 26 affected villages.

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