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Cotton Dora


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

He is also called as Cotton Dora.

Cotton devoted his life to the construction of irrigation and navigation canals throughout British India. He entered the Madras Engineers in 1819.An evangelist, he was the father of Elizabeth Hope.Arthur Cotton was born on 15 May 1803, the tenth son of Henry Calvely Cotton, and one of eleven brothers. In 1818, 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.

Cotton would tell the story of how 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.

He started his career with the Ordnance Survey at Bangor, North Wales, in January 1820, where he was praised for his reports. In 1821 he was appointed for service in India, where he was initially attached to the Chief Engineer to Madras. He was later appointed as an Assistant Engineer to Superintending Engineer of the Tank Department.

Cotton conducted a marine survey of the Pamban passage between India and Ceylon. He was promoted to the rank of Captain in 1828, and was put in charge of Investigation for the Cauveri Scheme. He started working to remove the soil settling in Kallanai dam and with the model of Kallanai dam he built the Upper Dam in Cauveri in Mukkombu near Tiruchirapalli and success of these projects paved the way for great projects on the Godavari and Krishna Rivers.


Sir Cotton once told, after analyzing the Kallanai dam and the basement of the dam, they learned how to build basement in place full of bed of sand. In 1844 Cotton recommended the construction of “Anicut (dam )” and prepared plans for Visakhapatnam port. In 1847 the work on the Godavari Anicut was started.

In 1848 he proceeded to Australia due to ill health and handed over the charge to Captain Orr. In 1850 he returned to India and was promoted Colonel. He succeeded in completing the magnificent project on Godavari river at Dowleswaram in 1852.

After completing the Godavari Anicut Cotton shifted his attention to the construction of the Aqueduct on Krishna River. The project was sanctioned in 1851 and completed by 1855. After completing the Krishna and Godavari Anicuts, Cotton envisaged the storage of Krishna and Godavari river waters.

In 1858 Cotton came up with still more ambitious proposals connecting almost all major rivers of India and suggested drought relief measures in Odisha and interlinking of canals and rivers. Arthur Cotton was retired from the service in 1860 and was knighted in 1861 and left India. In 1862 and 1863 he visited India and offered advice on some river valley projects.

His work in India was so much appreciated and honored with K.C.S.I (Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India) in 1877. He became a much revered figure in the state of Andhra Pradesh for his contribution in irrigating the area of land also known as Konaseema.

In India due to his contributions the new barrage constructed across River Godavari upstream side of the Anicut was also named after him and dedicated to the Nation by the Honorable Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi in 1982.

Cotton is revered in the Godavari District for making it the ‘rice bowl’ of Andhra Pradesh. Cotton is widely known as the ‘Delta Architect’ of the Godavari District because of his pioneering work in irrigation engineering through his construction of the anicut system. He died on 24 July 1899.

Going through the famine and cyclone-ravaged districts of Godavari, Cotton was distressed by the sight of famished people of the Godavari districts. It was then that he put in process his ambitious plans to harness the waters of the mighty Godavari for the betterment of the humanity.

artur stone

In 1878, Cotton had to appear before a House of Commons Committee to justify his proposal to build an anicut across the Godavari. A further hearing in the House of Commons followed by 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 despaired by the British Government’s procrastination in taking along this project.

That Government of India’s plans to interlink rivers was long envisioned by Cotton is a fact.While at Rajahmundry, Arthur Cotton used to attend the Church of the Godavari Delta Mission.

Arthur Cotton barrage is 150 years’ old:

rajahmundry: the famous cotton barrage that was commissioned on 14th april 1852 has completed 150 years of service. the project has a capacity to irrigate 16,90,000 acres of land under its three delta systems in east and west godavari districts.

The Dowleswaram Barrage is an irrigation structure which is built on the lower stretch of the Godavari River before it empties into the Bay of Bengal. It was built by a British irrigation engineer, Sir Arthur Thomas Cotton. His many projects averted famines and stimulated the economy of southern India. Before this barrage was constructed many hectares of land has been flooded with water and was unused. The water would be worthlessly going into sea.But when Sir Arthur Thomas Cotton had built the barrage those unused lands were brought into cultivation and the water was stored and used. Coordinates: 16°57’N 81°45’E.


The Cotton Museum was constructed on behalf of Sir Cotton’s memory. It has been a tourist attraction in Rajahmundry. The Godavari River empties its water into the Bay of Bengal after flowing nearly fifty miles from the Dowleswaram Barrage. The village of Dowleshwaram is at a distance of eight kilometers downstream of Rajamundry.

districts. The Dowleswaram Barrage is 15 feet high and 3.5 km long, with 175 crest gates to pass the floods. The full reservoir level of the barrage is 14 m MSL with 2.93 Tmcft gross storage capacity. The dam alignment crosses two mid stream islands, and the barrage was constructed in four sections, which allowed flood passage during the construction period. Its construction was completed in 1850.


Love and adoration of the people in the twin Godavari districts for Sir Arthur Cotton, the architect of the Godavari delta system, literally knew no bounds on his 208th birth anniversary on Sunday. Overwhelmed by a deep sense of gratitude for his invaluable contribution to the irrigation system in the region, people from different walks of life joined the celebrations as a thanks-giving gesture.

‘Abhishekams’ with milk were performed to his statues in some parts. A farmers’ club named after him held a function to celebrate the event at Pentapadu in West Godavari district. The club members adorned his bronze statue with a garland made of paddy panicles and five persons, including a progressive farmer and a retired irrigation engineer, were honoured on the occasion.

The Irrigation Department celebrated the occasion at its office at the barrage at Dowleswaram, which he built in 1852 against all odds to herald prosperity and green revolution in the Godavari delta region. The Engineers Federation undertook service activities across the district.

Although the country got rid of the colonial past, Sir Arthur Cotton still remains in the hearts of people all over the delta area. The imposing barrage at Dowleswaram, 12-ft above the riverbed and two and a quarter miles long across the river, with two head sluices on either side and several under sluices, stands testimony to his vision.

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