Indian Irrigation Statistics.
A statistical review published by the British Indian Government on the financial and agricultural results obtained from the irrigation works in India is of especial value to our legislators, capitalists or investors, and to those residents in districts likely to be affected by the large projects of this nature on foot in the United States.
In considering these results, of course, it must be remembered, says The Engineering and Mining Journal, that irrigation in India has, on account of the conditions existing, become part of the national policy of the government, and that to carry out the works considered necessary there were only two courses open, as in many cases their urgency rendered it impossible to leave them entirely to private enterprise—viz., to construct the works and organize the districts on direct gov ernment account or by means of English companies with a minimum interest guaranteed on their capital, as was the case in creating the railroad system of India. This latter course was only adopted in one instance, and either from the scheme being ill-judged, embracing navigation as well as irrigation, or from bad management in the construction of the works or their operation, it became a constant burden on the government, and was finally bought up and is now administered by the Irrigation department.
In the statistical returns the irrigation works are divided into two classes, major and minor works, in rather an arbitrary fashion, as some of the minor works are of more importance than some of the superior class; but generally speaking, the major works comprise those that entailed most engineering, and a portion of them required so large a capital expenditure that they were constructed with borrowed money, which was never the case with minor works, the expenditures in these cases being provided out of the general revenues of the country, in addition to which the latter were in many cases modifications or extensions of existing systems when the country was annexed. To follow the statistical results, it is necessary to note that in each of the two main classes there is a subdivision, the major works being divided into those of which the capital has been provided from borrowed money (productive works), and those of which the capital has been provided out of the general revenues of the country (protective works), and which might be appropriately termed anti-famine works. The minor works are divided into those of which capital and revenue accounts are kept, and those of which from insufficient data as to original cost no capital accounts are kept.
The returns of the area irrigated in 1887-1888 show that more than 12,000,000 acres are actually under irrigation, which figure serves to demonstrate the important part filled by this department of public works, and in the estimates of the food provided by irrigation works in a year of famine, made by the famine commission, which reported in 1880, leaving out of consideration altogether the works comprised under the second head of minor works, as they consist largely of storage reservoirs which might fail from drought in such a year, it is calculated that no less than 24,580,000 persons would be supported. This is an astonishing result to have been achieved by forethought and engineering skill, and it is undoubtedly no exaggeration, as the estimates are based on the acreage cultivated for food crops in an ordinary year, whereas, in a year of drought and famine there would be a large additional acreage put under such crops which inordinary years would be devoted to dyes, drugs, oil-seeds, fibres and other non-edible crops.
With reference to the primary object of some of the important works, and the very considerable expenditure that had then been made upon them, the famine commission in their report of 1880, already referred to, states “that it has been too much the custom in discussions as to the policy of constructing such works to measure their value by their financial success, considered only with reference to the net return to government on the capital invested in them. The true value of irrigitation works is to be judged very differently. First must be reckoned the direct protection afforded by them in years of drought, by the saving of human life, by the avoidance of loss of revenue remitted, and of the outlay incurred in costly measures of relief.” These sentences give us the keynote to the principle on which much of the work has been undertaken, and which are not applicable to the conditions governing the irrigation question in this country.
The gross capital expenditure incurred by the British Government on the irrigitation works of India amounts to nearly $160,000,000, at the nominal par value of the rupee, and as a large amount of this expenditure was made when the rupee was worth nearly par, or much more than the present price of silver gives it, it is more convenient and just for the sake of comparison to figure out the cost at the nominal value of the currency of the country, giving the revenue and expenses in the same. The works on which this expenditure has been incurred yield at present (1887-1888) a net return of about 3 1/4 per cent on the outlay, and the minor works of the second division yield nearly as much more, making a return of nearly 6 1/4 per cent altogether on the capital charged to irrigation works, so that apart from the various indirect benefits to the government the investment itself has proved a good one.
Of the major works (A) there are thirty-four systems, and the specified condition that has to be fulfilled before such works can be sanctioned is that they shall be productive, and at all events provide interest on the money borrowed for construction. The capital expenditure on this class of works up to the end of 1887-1888 was $128,113,375, and by them were provided 5520 miles of main canal, of which 2250 miles or nearly half, were navigable, the length of the distributing branches being 17,135 miles, without taking into account many that have been constructed by the land owners. The works included in the foregoing statement are designed to irrigate a gross area of rather more than ten millions of acres; but some of the systems are not yet complete, and most of them have not yet had sufficient time to reach their full development. The cost per acre of irrigable area is somewhat difficult to determine, in consequence of the navigation element being introduced, but the conclusion arrived at is that about $14 may be taken as the average cost, though it is true that the great Ganges Canal, which supplies the largest area of all, only represents a cost of $9.50 per acre.
Up to the present time only ten of the thirty-four systems have been worked at a profit of more than four per cent (the rate of interest charged in the accounts), but the profits on these ten have been sufficient to cover the deficiency arising from works under construction and in process of development, with a surplus to the credit of the government on all the works of this class of nearly $15,000,000.
The actual profit for the year 1887-1888, however, only showed a return of 3.28 per cent in consequence of the expenditure of the last ten years on new works largely exceeding that represented by those works completed and fairly developed; for instance, the return from the first fourteen works constructed with borrowed money, which system commenced in 1869, and which represented an outlay of about $45,000,000, amounted in 1888 to about 8 1/2 per cent.
The productive or famine works represent up to the date of the returns an outlay of about $7,500,000, to irrigate an area when completed, with a further estimated expenditure of about $1,400,000, of 610,466 acres, being a capital cost of $14.50 per acre. There are six works in all, and of the five that are open partially, only two pay their working expenses ; the net loss upon all the works for the year being, however, only about $33,000.
The minor works are more numerous, there being fifty-four of the first-class; and taken collectively, are more remunerative than the productive major works. The completed works comprise about 3416 miles of canal of which about 1050 are for navigation purposes solely, and in connection with these systems there have been constructed 2648 miles of distributory branches. The area irrigable is approximately 2,090,000 acres, and the net returns from three important districts are 10.15, 13.01 and 18.04 percent on the capital outlay respectively. The total result shows a return from the whole class of 4.16 per cent.
The minor works of the second class, although generally of little importance in themselves from an engineering point of view, are of considerable value to the country, both from an agricultural and financial standpoint. A great number of them are storage reservoirs, serving each a limitedarea and subject to failure in protracted drought, while others are simply inundation canals, which are also somewhat uncertain owing to insufficient rise in the rivers in a dry season to supply them. Yet, in spite of this, the revenue derived from them in the fiscal year 1887-1888 was about $4,575,000, and their importance from an agricultural point of view is also shown from the area irrigated, which, in the year referred to, was 4,852,684 acres.
The total area irrigable in India when the works under construction are completed will amount to about 18,000,000 acres. The rates payable from water are from fifty cents an acre for rice crops in some parts of Bengal up to $10 an acre for sugar cane in Bombay. The average rate is rather less than $1.50 an acre.
All the preceding figures, however, of direct return to the government on the capital expended are lost sight of when the value of the crops is taken into account—a value which may be said to be absolutely created by the works—and is sufficient evidence of the importance of a well-directed and comprehensive scheme of national irrigation. It may be safely stated that the value of the crops raised in the irrigated areas in the year 1887-1888 was over $150,000,000, of which more than one-half was entirely due to the water supplied, and in the year of drought this proportion would naturally be largely increased. The exact valuation from the greater portion of the area (four provinces) would make the value $165,000,000; but as the valuation was not exact in the other two provinces, the estimate of value is fixed as above.
The rainfall varies from an average of three or four inches in Sinde and some parts of the Punjaub, where no crops could be grown without irrigation, to forty or fifty inches in Bengal; but even here the irrigated crops give a better return than those without irrigation by about twenty per cent.
ELECTRIC LAMPS FOR Travelers.—One of the latest novelties in the application of electricity consists of an electric reading lamp, which is being fitted to the carriages on the main line of the Southeastern Railway. It is on the principle of the “put-a-penny-in-the-slot” automatic machines. The apparatus is situated immediately over the passenger’s head, and under the rack, and is contained in a small box five by three inches. The light is a five-candle power, and is obtained by the introduction of a penny at the top of the box, and by a subsequent pressure of a knob, and will last half an hour, extinguishing itself at the end of that time automatically. If the light be required for an indefinite period a penny every half hour will suffice. The light can be extinguished at any moment by means of a second button provided for the purpose. One of the special features of the invention is that, if the instrument is out of order, the penny is not lost, as it is in the present machines. It drops right through and comes out at the bottom of the box, so that it can be recovered, and the same result happens in the case of any coin other than a penny. Each carriage is fitted with an accumulator which supplies the electricity. This invention will add greatly to the comfort of passengers during night journeys.—Nature.