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The Bengal Embankment Manual

The Bengal Embankment Manual

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Excerpt from The Bengal Embankment Manual: Containing an Account of the Action of the Government in Dealing With Embankments and Water-Courses Since the Permanent Settlement; A Discussion of the Principles of the Act of 1873

Which embankments ought to be kept up, and which ought to be abandoned? How far is the State bound to bear the expense of keeping up those retained What officers could most advantageously be charged with the supervision of them? What powers should be given them of taking over, on behalf of the public, existing works, or of constructing new works? Lastly, so far as the duty of maintaining embankments or cognate works might be found to devolve on individuals or on persons benefited by them, what authority ought the executive officers of the State to exercise to compel these persons to fulfil their obligations, and to levy from them the necessary costs, and what procedure should be prescribed for this purpose, are questions which have again and again been discussed, reported upon, and noted upon. The same ground has been often re-trod; often ill-considered orders have been passed and withdrawn within a few years sometimes the Government would seem to have shirked the difficulties involved in any decision of the problem, and endeavoured to postpone or escape a settlement of it. At last in 1855 a comprehensive, though, as experience proved, insufficient Act was passed; and it was only in the Bengal Embankment Act of 1873 that all the difficulties have been grappled with and a legislative mea passed which, though no doubt it will need amending in details, as tested by experience, bids fair to afford a satisfactory solution of the difficulties which have hitherto beset the Government.

The new Act charges the Collectors with the immediate supervision of embankments and drainage; and the district in which the question assumes far greater prominence than in any other district to which the Act applies is Midnapore. This is partly due to two out of the five rivers which need embanking intersecting it, but still more to its having a large sea-face lying within ordinary tidal range, but cultivated up to the very sea-line, over the whole of which embankments are a necessary condition to the existence of cultivation. Above all, it is due to the lamentable recurrence over this area of cyclones and their attendant storm-waves; the destructive effect of which can only be warded off by a system of carefully-designed and well-maintained dykes, both along the sea-face and up the channels leading into it, which entail, in their turn, a system of minor works.

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