The west coast is narrower but more wet than the east coast, which is much wider but relatively dry. A number of river deltas occur on the east coast, viz., the Mahanadi, the Godavari, the Krishna and the Cauvery, but none on the west. These deltas form the ‘granary’ of the five southern States Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry. The western coastal strips, on the other hand, are noted for spices, are canuts, coconut, palms, etc.
(i) The West Coastal Plain:
The West Coastal Plain spreads from Gujarat to the Kanyakumari. Going from north to south it goes on narrowing. It is about 1400 km long and 10 to 80 km wide. It has an elevation up to 150 m above sea level. It is uneven and has been dissected by numerous fast- flowing rivers—the Narmada and the Tapti are among them.
The plain is divided into two parts the northern and the southern. The northern part from Gujarat to Goa is called Konkan plain (530 km long) while the southern Malabar plain (550 km long) fom Goa to the Kanyakumari.
Konkan is 50-80 kms. Wide and characterised with estuaries while Malabar is characterised with lagoons, estuaries and back waters (Kayals). Lagoons are salt water lakes, separated from the main sea by sands bars and spits. The coast shows evidence of emergence.
(ii) The East Coastal Plains:
These extend from Kanyakumari northwards to the Krishna and Godavari deltas for 1,100 kms. With an average width of 120 kms. Further north, they almost approach the sea. The coastal plains again widen north of Berhampur and extend to the Chilka Lake, the Mahanadi delta, and the Balasore coastal plain, where they merge into the deltaic plans of the Ganga.
As the peninsular plateau is tilted towards east, all rivers, except Narmada and Tapti, flow eastwards towards the Bay of Bengal, forming vast deltas, which are very fertile, highly irrigated and densely populated. Spits, lagoons and off-shore bars also develop along the coast. The plain is sub-divided into the Tamil Nadu plain, Andhra plain, and the Orissa plain.
The northern part is North Circar plain and the southern is Coromandal plain. A chain of bars is found along the coast that has given birth to numerous lagoons. The Chutka and the Pulicat present good examples of lagoons. Fertile deltas of the Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri are found along the Eastern Coastal Plain. There are several lakes along the coast. Lake Chilka in Orissa, Kolleru and Pulicat in Andhra Pradesh are among the large lakes found along the coast.
Significance of the Coastal Plains:
(a) Natural Harbours:
It may be noted that the coasts of India are very little indented by large inlets, the only significant ones being the Gulf of Cambay and the Rann of Kutch. The, west coast has small inlets, and in east its delta creeks. Hence, natural harbours along the coast are few. Mumbai, Marmagao, Cochin, New Mangalore, Vishakhapatnam have natural harbours, but others do not.
(b) Specialised Crops:
The coastal plains are noted for their specialised crops of spices, pepper, ginger and cardamom on the west coast and rice, arecanut, palms and coconuts on the east.
The back waters and lagoons on the coasts are linked together for navigation along the coast and the interior. A large number of fishing village abound near the coast. Large catches of sardines, eel, anchovies, carp, silver fish, mullets, mringal etc. are caught near the coast.
(e) Economic Influence:
The coastline has a large number of scenic spots, which attract tourists. Panaji, Vasco, Madgaon beaches in Goa, Juhu beach in Mumbai, Chennai beach in Tamil Nadu, and Gopalpur and Puri beaches in Odisha provide recreation to a large number of tourists, besides; salt is manufactured along the west coast throughout the year except the rainy season.