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Land Use Pattern

The district of Amravati may be broadly divided into two geographical divisions, the Melghat hilly area, a highly forested area of the Satpudas and the plains area or the Payinghat below it traversed by a number of streams flowing southwards from the Satpuda mountains mentioned above.

Melghat Division.

[Besides personal observations, the material for this section is drawn from a very detailed account of Melghat by Dr. S. S. Padhye, published in Bombay Geographical Magazine, Vols. VIII-IX, 1961, pp. 37-49.]

The first division comprises practically the whole of the Melghat tahsil covering an area of about 4,000 km2. Of this 77 per cent is under tropical deciduous forests. This division may be further sub-divided into the following sub-regions: - (1) Gawilgad ridge, (2) the southern forest zone. (3) the northern forest zone, (4) upper Chandrabhaga valley, (5) the plains of Dharni and Bairagarh, and (6) the Katkumbh plateau.

The main ridge of the Gawilgad hills runs in an easterly and north-easterly direction through the southern part of the Melghat tahsil. It enters the district just west of Wan railway station with the heights of peaks about 750 metres increasing to over 820 metres south of Golai. About one kilometre northwest of Jhira on the Akot-Koha route it attains an elevation of 1,101 metres. From here it extends as a flat-topped ridge for about four kilometres and after a slight lowering at the pass, the main ridge continues north of the Shahanur river in a north-easterly direction with summit levels of 1,100 metres widening into the Vairat and Chikhaldara plateaus. Then it continues north of Chikhaldara plateau in a north-westerly direction passing through Nanagiri to Kukru (1,134 metres) in Betul district beyond the border. The highest summit on the ridge is Vairat (1,177.75 metres) sanctified by the temple of Vairateshwar. The flat plateau is able to sustain cultivation and the village of Vairat. Eight miles to the east is the Chikhaldara plateau 16 km. in area and with a population of 1,338 persons (1961) constituting the town of Melghat. This was one of the two hill stations in the former Central Provinces, the other being Panchmarhi. After the merger of the Vidarbha region with Maharashtra, Chikhaldara has been developed as a holiday camp by the State Government. Chikhaldara consists of a smaller upper plateau in the west, and a larger lower plateau in the east. The upper plateau is always green with plenty of tree growth but the lower plateau is relatively bare.

Some three kilometres south of Chikhaldara plateau lies the Gawilgad fort on another plateau covering an extent of about one km2. now in ruins. The inside of the fort area has a plenty of grass growth which is cut by the Gawali folk of the adjoining villages for hay. The fort area is surrounded on all the sides except the north by precipitous slopes. On the north it is connected by a narrow ridge like feature with the Chikhaldara plateau. Besides Vairat and Chikhaldara, on the plateau of the Gawilgad ridge are some smaller villages such as Pastala and Nanagiri. A very remarkable feature of this ridge is that the descent from the relatively flat summit plateau is by a series of precipitous slopes one below the other separated by narrow steps of lesser gradients, most conspicuous on the slopes of the plateau of Vairat, Chikhaldara and Gawilgad fort area. From this main ridge the land slopes very steeply but irregularly through several minor ridges to the Amravati plains which begins at an altitude of 450 metres. These steep slopes are covered with tropical deciduous forests which have a drier appearance in summer than those on the north. North of the main ridge there is a succession of hills and valleys in a contused pattern clothed more luxuriantly than the southern part. Here the same deciduous species present a greener appearance even in summer, being the result of lesser gradients and probably also of the lesser degree of exposure to the sun from the south during a greater part of the year reducing the amount of loss of soil moisture by evaporation and of the greater amount of rainfall. For, the average annual rainfall is usually highest on the main ridge of the Gawilgad which amounts to 140 cm. The rainfall gradually decreases towards the north and west, the average annual rainfall at Dharni being 99.44 cm. It abruptly decreases towards the south of the main ridge. A majority of the rivers drain northwards and north-westwards towards the Tapi. The villages are located near these rivers and their tributaries but often at some distance from them on elevated ground on flat-topped areas. Apart from avoiding floods and slopes covered with thin soils, such a position affords freedom from frosts and heavy dews which damage the crops in lower areas. Agricultural areas are found in flat strips of land bordering the rivers especially the Garga and the Sipna in their lower courses, the Dharni plain connecting the two being the most extensive of this type. A smaller agricultural area is found adjoining the Tapi further north. The permanent water table in these two areas is approximately 30 feet below the surface. Therefore there are numerous wells supporting a somewhat dense population. The Katkumbh plateau is another agricultural area situated to the east of the northern forest tract at a height of 820 metres, which is close to the continuing part of the Gawilgad ridge in Betul district. The plateau has moderate undulations with abundant gently sloping land and hence it supports a relatively dense population.

The second geographical division, viz., the Payinghat or the plain area, may be further sub-divided into the following sub-regions: -

(1) the Piedmont belt of light and medium black soils with abundant ground water supplies, sloping away from the Satpudas;

(2) the region of deep and fertile soils of the south-west, where the sub-soil water is very often saline;

(3) the regions of light red and medium black soils of Chandur and eastern Amravati; and

(4) stretches of fertile black soils adjoining the Wardha in southern Morshi and south-eastern Chandur tahsils.

Piedmont Sub-Region.

The zone sloping away from the Satpudas and traversed by innumerable sub-parallel streams flowing southwards from the hills, comprises the Morshi tahsil excluding the strip in the south-east adjoining the Wardha, the Achalpur tahsil excluding the southern third of it, and the northern part of Daryapur tahsil. Near the foot of the hills, the soils are coarse and reddish in colour, being derived from the debris washed from above, and are given over to jowar cultivation. Beyond this belt of coarse Piedmont debris slopes, the rain water which had percolated through them appears closer to the surface and there is an abundance of ground water supplies tapped by innumerable wells. Here the soils are medium in character and are well drained and therefore respond readily to irrigation. This has resulted in a remarkable development of a chain of large-sized villages and towns parallel to the base of the hills at a distance of about 5 to 10 kilometres, located on stream banks, e.g., Anjangaon-Surji, Pathrot, Achalpur, Karasgaon, Brahman-wada Thadi, Morshi, Jarud and Warud. Oranges, plantains, chillis and grapes are the favourite crops of this belt. In the Morshi tahsil in the eastern section of this sub-region orange cultivation is highly developed and the consequent economic prosperity based on this intensive type of garden cultivation is reflected in the large size of the villages and towns in this tahsil. Grapes, plantains and betel vines are the subsidiary garden crops. Near the western border of the Morshi tahsil west of Kolwihir this belt is interrupted by the Wardha-Purna water divide where canals are to be seen. To the west of the divide orange groves begin again in Sirasgaon Band, which is close to the town of Chandur Bazar. As the conditions are somewhat similar, orange cultivation has been newly introduced in the western section also. Young orange groves can be seen round Achalpur town. Further west from Wadgaon to Pathrot chillis are widespread. In this western section double crops are usually raised based on well irrigation. Besides chillis, there is mixed cropping of jowar with black-gram or green-gram, or sometimes chillis are mixed with cambodia cotton, 6 lines of chillis with one line of cotton being a common type of mixture. Dhurras- bounding strips of land between adjacent fields-are very much narrowed as the land is highly valuable. In this sub-region the date (shindi) trees abound as natural vegetation especially on nala banks in response to good sub-soil water-supply. In fact the southern limit of this sub-region of plentiful sub-soil water can be readily located on the ground from the distribution of the date tree. Mango trees are also quite common here.

South-West Deep Black-Soil Region.

As we proceed farther away from the Satpudas, the depth of the black soil increases but wells become scarce partly due to the lowering of the water table and partly to prevalence of salinity in the sub-soil water. Consequently the ubiquitous date tree of the north practically disappears in this sub-region; the mango trees also become fewer, confined to areas where the sub-soil water is not salty. The southern half of the Daryapur tahsil, western Amravati and southern third of Achalpur tahsil are included in this sub-region. Though the sub-soil water is saline, the surface soils are exceedingly fertile and there are abundant crops of cotton, jowar and wheat throughout this area. Here jowar is grown even on the steeply inclining riverine slopes except where the top soils have been badly denuded by the gullying action of rain waters. On account of the high retentivity of moisture in these deep black soils, cotton plant remains green longer than usual and yields a superior fibre. This sub-region as a whole is not suitable for irrigation from wells as the fields on which well water is spread become saline and lose in fertility. This fact does not preclude the feasibility of canal irrigation from rivers having their sources outside this zone, which as a matter of fact, is being developed.

There are indeed some places such as Shingnapur and Nanded Buzrug where the sub-soil water is found to be free from salinity. It has been found out that by joining such spots free from salinity, others on these lines are also free of salinity which leads one to the conclusion that such salt-free strips are the result of the draining-off action by the waters of the former courses of rivers, which are not identifiable as such at present on the ground. This interesting hypothesis [From information supplied by Shri S. A. Joshi, Agricultural Development Officer, Amravati Zilla Parishad.], when it is fully established by detailed field surveys, will lead to a detailed mapping of such old drainage courses, which will enable the authorities to give guidance to the agriculturists in their attempt to locate spots of sweet ground water for digging wells for irrigation.

Sub-Region of Light Red and Medium Black Soil of the East.

The villages in this sub-region though not so large as in the first sub-region are more numerous and more closely spaced, but again mostly confined to the banks of streams, sited on the outer side of their bends. It may be noted that these bends similating the meanders of mature streams arc not the result of their own making, but the consequence of the previously existing flatness of the terrain. This sub-region comprises the eastern part of Amravati tahsil and a large part of Chandur tahsil. There are residual hills of varying heights forming the water divides between the Purna and Wardha rivers and their tributary streams. The soils range from light red of the interfluves to the medium black of the valleys. The larger villages are located along the line corresponding to the east edge of the detached interfluves in the centres of the valley depressions opening between them to the east, where there is maximum possibility of ground water supplies, e.g., Rajurvara, Tivsa, Mojhri, Kurha, Warha and Virul. Further to the east towards the Wardha river villages are fewer and smaller in size. Though garden cultivation is carried on in favoured spots, the light soils of this region are suitable only to such crops as bajri and groundnut.

Black Soil Stretches Along the Wardha.

There are stretches of fertile black soils in south-eastern Morshi and southern Chandur tahsils. The south-eastern part of Morshi tahsil consists of deep fertile black soils on the banks of the Wardha river. Here small villages are located on the banks of tributary streams, fairly closely spaced, at intervals of 3 kilometres or less. The immediate banks of the Wardha river badly cut up by gullying action are usually avoided.

The other region of fertile black soils is found approximately to the south of the railway line running eastwards from Chandur, for this line itself follows the southern edge of the eastward trending groups of hills from Chandur. In this southeastern region of the district there is intensive cultivation of cotton. The date trees on the nala banks and patches of intensive garden cultivation reflect the good conditions of sub-soil water. Very often the nala banks are forested chiefly by the date trees and in spite of their good soils had been neglected in favour of the easy open lands available for cultivation elsewhere. The land is generally low-lying under 300 metres above sea level. Many of the principal villages have ruined mud forts (gadhis) which were constructed in the past to afford protection against the ravages of Pendharis.