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Buckingham Canal Ignored lifeline of coastal Andhra Pradesh

50 years back Buckingham Canal was ferrying goods along coastal Andhra Pradesh...
The Buckingham Canal from Kakinada to Pulicat lake in Andhra Pradesh travel distance of 560 km. Buckingham Canal originally called Cochrane Canal in 1806, it was then called Lord Clive’s Canal for a brief while. It finally became Buckingham Canal in 1878 as it was on the order of the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos — as Governor of Madras — that the extension of the canal was taken up to help people affected by famine. Buckingham it was and has come to be. Extension work began and the Buckingham Canal stretched gradually to Kakinada further north in Andhra Pradesh and to Markkanam south of Chennai.
Buckingham Canal
Buckingham Canal 

Details of the working of the Buckingham Canal and how it brought prosperity to the coastal belt were recorded meticulously in late 19th century district gazetteers of Kistna district, as Krishna used to be called in those days. The cyclones of 1965-66 and 1976 however struck a blow, damaging the multipurpose canal in some places, while the arrival of road and rail transportation led to the slow death of navigation barring a few stretches.

Revival of the Buckingham Canal came into focus after it was declared as National Waterway 4 in 2008. This itself came about after studies showed that the canal acted as a buffer and had saved many lives and properties when a tsunami hit the Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh coast in December 2004.

A 2,000-crore plan announced by the Central government in 2016 for 1,095 km of Buckingham Canal. It is much more than the originally planned course from Kakinada to Kalapettai comprising Kakinada Canal (Kakinada to Rajahmundry: 50 km), Eluru Canal (Rajahmundry to Eluru: 74 km), Krishna Eluru Canal (Eluru to Vijayawada: 65 km), Commamuru Canal (Vijayawada to Peddaganjam: 113 km) and North Buckingham Canal (Pedda Ganjam to Tada: 258 km) — all in Andhra Pradesh. But for the North Buckingham Canal which is partly tidal, all others are fresh water-based. In Tamil Nadu, the revival plan covers South Buckingham Canal: Chennai to Marakkanam (110 km) and Marakkanam to Kalapettai in Puducherry (22 km).

The plan now, as finalised by the IWAI, is to extend it to the Godavari river system from Bhadrachalam (in Telangana) to Rajahmundry covering a distance of 171 km; and to the Krishna river system from Wazirabad (Telangana) to Pulichintala near Vijayawada (157 km). A MoU has been signed by the Centre and the Andhra Pradesh government to get the project going through a special purpose vehicle and involves the Visakhapatnam Port Trust. The idea is to develop the Buckingham Canal waterway to Class-III navigation standards for running 1,000-tonne-capacity vessels.