This plain is bordered by wide Plateau from north to south direction.
The Bhagirathi, the western distributor of the Ganga Delta takes off from the right bank of the Ganga in Murshidabad district and is given the name of the Hooghly below Hooghly village (situated 38 kilometres upstream from Kolkata). The Hooghly is a tidal river. The Ajay, the Damodar, and the Rupnarayan are among the important 3right-bank tributaries of the Bhagirathi-Hooghly River.
The flood plain of the Ganga is a land of old river channels or ox-bow lakes which form pools of stagnant water called bhils. South of Kolkata, the land is low and is not more than 75 metres above sea- level. About 112-km. wide belt of the delta running along the sea has a tidal forest popularly known as the Sunderbans; this forest has numerous swamps of saline water.
An 80 km long forest belt of casuarina and cashew nut trees is being created along the coast to check the penetration of sand into the interior. Tidai bore in Hooghly do not allow ships to move.
Climate and Vegetation:
Tropical climate is found throughout the summer months, the average monthly temperature does not depart from 29.4° C to any appreciable extent. April and May are the hottest months.
Humidity is high and the weather is very trying during the summer season relieved only by thunderstorms called “Kalbaisakhi” in March-April. They are accompanied by rain and strong winds and are often destructive. Rain starts in middle of June. This season continues up to the end of September.
East of the Hooghly a 112-km. broad belt running along the sea in the south has a mangrove forest. Casuarina also grows in the coastal belt. Elsewhere, tropical deciduous forest grows. Most of this forest has, however, been cleared for crop cultivation. Mangrove and casuarina forests are the sources of fuelwood.
Approximately 60 percent of the land of this region is under cultivation. Bulk of the cultivable land is sown with food grain crops. Rice is dominant everywhere and it occupies nearly 3/4 th of the total cropped area. Pulses, jute and oil seeds are other important crops of this region.
Rice is the principal crop everywhere and the staple food of the people. High temperature, adequate rainfall and the fertile alluvial soil ensure rich crops of rice.
The rice crop sown in May and June and harvested in September and October is aus or autumn rice. The most important rice crop is, however, that which is sown in June and July and harvested in November and December. This is low-level land crop, and is called aman or winter crop.
The third crop, an insignificant one, is called bora or summer crop. It is sown in November and December and is harvested in March and April. Aman crop is the principal rice crop and it accounts for about 85% of the total rice produced in this region.
About 8% of the net sown area is under this crop. The region accounts for nearly six-tenths of India’s area under jute. It is almost the only cash crop of the farmers. The region accounts for net.riy half of the total jute produced in India.
Jute plant grows well on grey silt rich in potash but deficient in lime content. Old alluvium does not support jute. Jute is grown mainly along the Bhagirathi-Hooghly and in the northern part of this region where fresh silt is received regularly.
It is sown during the period from the end of March to the end of May and is harvested during the period from July to September. The seeds are sown broadcast. Long hours of sun-shine and pre-monsoon showers accelerate the vigorous growth of the jute plant.
The straight slender stems of the jute plant usually 3.0 to 3.6 metres tall, are tied up in bundles and retted in stagnant or slow moving water for a period of 2 to 3 weeks. Retting loosens the fibre from the woody part of the plant. It also makes the fibre soft.
The loose fibre is graded and baled and dispatched to Kolkata where it is spun and woven into coarse fabrics used mainly as a packing material. Jute goods are manufactured also for export. As much as 20 per cent of the total jute goods manufactured in the country are exported.
In this region, fresh-water fisheries are significant and account for 30 percent of the total fresh-water catch in India. Intensive pond and tank culture of fishes is practised throughout this region. Fish caught from ponds and tanks account for nearly 95% of the total catch in West Bengal. Fishes are the important source of protein.
There is variety of village industries. Jute pressing and making of jute ropes in the jute growing areas, rearing of silk worms and collecting of cocoons in Malda and Murshidabad districts and weaving of cloth at handlooms are characteristic village-level industries in the rural landscape of this region. Murshidabad and Bankura are known for manufacture of utensils of brass.
There are large scale industries on both sides of the Hooghly and at Durgapur. The locational advantage of Hooghly is particularly useful to export-oriented industries like jute manufacture.
Availability of coal from Raniganj only 194 km. away to the north-west, iron and steel from Asansol, Durgapur and Jamshedpur, raw materials for paper industry and the river port facilitating, the import of essential raw materials from abroad have contributed immensely to the development of the Hooghly industrial area which is the leading industrial belt of India.
The Hooghly industrial belt extends from Naihati in the north to Budge Budge in the south. The jute mill industry consumes about 7.6 million bales of raw jute in the country often falls short of the requirements of the jute mills and India is obliged to import some raw jute from Bangladesh and Thailand.
In Bangladesh raw jute is relatively cheap and is produced often in excess of the requirements of her jute-mills. Since Bangladesh is able to produce jute manufactures cheaply, she is able to capture Indian market. This belt produces paper, chemicals, electrical goods, glassware, potteries, cotton textiles, cotton hosiery goods, rubber goods, footwear, paints and varnishes and plywood.
The Salt Lake City is an important centre of electronic industry. Electronic push button telephone (EPBT) is manufactured. Two more projects of great significance have come up in this region; they are (1) Development of Haldia Anchorage as a satellite port of Kolkata and (2) construction of Farakka Barrage.
These projects aim primarily at improving upon port facilities for the hinterland of Kolkata Port. Haldia Anchorage 87 km downstream from Kolkata serves as an auxiliary port to Kolkata besides having petro-chemical complex. The Farakka Barrage across Ganga has been built to hold port of Ganga water and divert it into the 42 km long feeder canal.