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Provincial Geographies of India/Volume 1/Chapter 13

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CHAPTER XIII

CANALS

Importance of Canals.- One need have no hesitation in placing among the greatest achievements of British rule in the Pan jab the magnificent system of irrigation canals which it has given to the province. Its great alluvial plain traversed by large rivers drawing an unfailing supply of water from the Himalayan snows affords an ideal field for the labours of the canal engineer. The vastness of the arid areas which without irrigation yield no crops at all or only cheap millets and pulses makes his works of inestimable benefit to the people and a source of revenue to the State.

Canals before annexation.— In the west of the province we found in existence small inundation canals dug by the people with some help from their rulers. These only ran during the monsoon season, when the rivers were swollen. In 1626 Shahjahan's Persian engineer, Ali Mardan Khan, brought to Delhi the water of the canal dug by Firoz Shah as a monsoon channel and made perennial by Akbar. But during the paralysis of the central power in the eighteenth century the channels became silted up. The same able engineer dug a canal from the Ravi near Madhopur to water the royal gardens at Lahore. What remained of this work at annexation was known as the Hasli.

Extent of Canal Irrigation.— In 1911-12, when the deficiency of the rainfall made the demand for water Page:Provincial geographies of India (Volume 1).djvu/153 Page:Provincial geographies of India (Volume 1).djvu/154 Western Jamna Canal.— Soon after the assumption of authority at Delhi in 1803 the question of the old Canal from the Jamna was taken up. The Delhi Branch was reopened in 1819, and the Hansi Branch six years later. In the famine year 1837-38 nearly 400,000 acres were irrigated. For more than half a century that figure represented the irrigating capacity of the canal. The English engineers in the main retained the faulty Moghal alignment, and waterlogging of the worst description developed. The effect on the health of the people was appalling. After long delay the canal was remodelled. The result has been most satisfactory in every way. In the last decade of the nineteenth century the Sirsa Branch and the Nardak Distributary were added, to carry water to parts of the Karnal and Hissar districts where any failure of the monsoon resulted in widespread loss of crops. If a scheme to increase the supply can be carried out, further extension in tracts now very liable to famine will become possible. In the six years ending 1910-11 the interest earned exceeded 8 p.c.

Upper Bari Doab Canal.— The headworks of the Upper Bari Doab Canal are above Madhopur near the point where the Ravi leaves the hills. The work was started soon after annexation, but only finished in 1859. Irrigation has grown from 90,000 acres in 1860-61 to 533,000 in 1880-81, 861,000 in 1900-1, and 1,157,000 in 1911-12. The later history of the canal consists mainly of great extensions in the arid Lahore district, and the irrigation there is now three-fifths of the whole. In parts of Amritsar, and markedly near the city, water-logging has become a grave evil, but remedial measures have now been undertaken. The interest earned on the capital expenditure in the six years ending 1910-11 averaged n| p.c.

Sirhind Canal.— A quarter of a century passed after the Upper Bari Doab Canal began working before the water of the Sutlej was used for irrigation. The Sirhind Canal weir is at Rupar where the river emerges from the Siwaliks. Patiala, Jind, and Nabha contributed to the cost, and own three of the five branches. But the two British branches are entitled to nearly two-thirds of the water, which is utilized in the Ludhiana and Ferozepore districts and in the Faridkot State. The soil of the tract commanded is for the most part a light sandy loam, and in years of good rainfall it repays dry cultivation. The result is that the area watered fluctuates largely. But in the six years ending 1910-11 the interest earned averaged 7 p.c, and the power of expansion in a bad year is a great boon to the peasantry.

Canal extensions in Western Panjab.— In the last quarter of a century the chief task of the Canal Department in the Panjab has been the extension of irrigation to the Rechna and Jech Doabs and the lower part of the Bari Doab. All three contained large areas of waste belonging to the State, mostly good soil, but incapable of cultivation owing to the scanty rainfall. Colonization has therefore been an important part of all the later canal projects. The operations have embraced the excavation of five canals.

Lower Chenab Canal.— The Lower Chenab Canal is one of the greatest irrigation works in the world, the area commanded being 3^ million acres, the average discharge four or five times that of the Thames at Teddington, and the average irrigated area 2 million acres. There are three main branches, the Rakh, the Jhang, and the Gugera. The supply is secured by a great weir built across the Chenab river at Khanki in the Gujranwala district, and 'the irrigation is chiefly in the Gujranwala, Lyallpur, and Jhang districts. In the four years ending 1911-12 the average interest earned was 28 p.c., and in future the rate should rarely fall below 30 p.c. The capital expenditure has been a little over £2,000,000, The interest charges were cleared about five years after the starting of irrigation, and the capital has already been repaid to the State twice over.

Fig. 46. Map — Canals.

Lower Jhelam Canal.— The Lower Jhelam Canal, which waters the tract between the Jhelam and Chenab in the Shahpur and Jhang districts, is a smaller and less profitable work. The culturable commanded area is about one million acres. The head-works are at Rasul in the Gujrat district. Irrigation began in 190 1. In the four years ending 1911-12 the average area watered was 748,000 acres and the interest earned exceeded 10 p.c.

Triple Project — Upper Jhelam and Upper Chenab Canals and Lower Ban Doab Canal.— The Lower Chenab Canal takes the whole available supply of the Chenab river. But it does not command a large area in the Rechna Doab lying in the west of Gujranwala, in which rain cultivation is very risky and well cultivation is costly. No help can be got from the Ravi, as the Upper Bar! Doab Canal exhausts its supply. Desirable as the extension of irrigation in the areas mentioned above is, the problem of supplying it might well have seemed insuperable. The bold scheme known as the Triple Project which embraces the construction of the Upper Jhelam, Upper Chenab, and Lower Ban Doab Canals, is based on the belief that the Jhelam river has even in the cold weather water to spare after feeding the Lower Jhelam Canal. The true raison d'etre of the Upper Jhelam Canal, whose head-works are at Mangla in Kashmir a little north of the Gujrat district, is to throw a large volume of water into the Chenab at Khanki, where the Lower Chenab Canal takes off, and so set free an equal supply to be taken out of the Chenab higher up at Merala in Sialkot, where are the head-works of the Upper Chenab Canal. But the Upper Jhelam Canal will also water annually some 345,000 acres in Gujrat and Shahpur. The Upper Chenab Canal will irrigate 648,000 acres mostly in Gujranwala, and will be carried across the Ravi by an aqueduct at Balloke in the south of Lahore. Henceforth the canal is known as the Lower Ban Doab, which will water 882,000 acres, mostly owned by the State, in the Montgomery and Multan districts. On the other two canals the area of Government land is not large. The Triple Project is approaching completion, and irrigation from the Upper Chenab Canal has begun. The engineering difficulties have been great, and the forecast does not promise such large gains as even the Lower Jhelam Canal. But a return of y p.c. is expected.

Monsoon or Inundation Canals.— The numerous monsoon or inundation canals, which take off from the Indus, Jhelam, Chenab, Ravi, and Sutlej, though individually petty works, perform an important office in the thirsty south-western districts. By their aid a kharif crop can be raised without working the wells in the hot weather, and with luck the fallow can be well soaked in autumn, and put under wheat and other spring crops. For the maturing of these crops a prudent cultivator should not trust to the scanty cold weather rainfall, but should irrigate them from a well. The Sidhnai has a weir, but may be included in this class, for there is no assured supply at its head in the Ravi in the winter. In 1910-11 the inundation canals managed by the State watered 1,800,000 acres. There are a number of private canals in Ferozepore, Shahpur, and the hill district of Kangra. In Ferozepore the district authorities take a share in the management.

Colonization of Canal Lands.— The colonization of huge areas of State lands has been an important part of new canal schemes in the west of the Panjab. When the Lower Chenab Canal was started the population of the vast Bar tract which it commands consisted of a few nomad cattle owners and cattle thieves. It was a point of honour to combine the two professions. Large bodies of colonists were brought from the crowded districts of the central Panjab. The allotments to peasants usually consisted of 55 acres, a big holding for a man who possibly owned only four or five acres in his native district. There were larger allotments known as yeoman and capitalist grants, but the peasants are the only class who have turned out quite satisfactory farmers. Colonization began in 1892 and was practically complete by 1904, when over 1,800,000 acres had been allotted. To save the peasants from the evils which an unrestricted right of transfer was then bringing on the heads of many small farmers in the Pan jab it was decided only to give them permanent inalienable tenant right. The Panjab Alienation of Land Act, No. XIII of 1900, has supplied a remedy generally applicable, and the peasant grantees are now being allowed to acquire ownership on very easy terms. The greater part of the colony is in the new Lyallpur district, which had in 1911 a population of 857,511 souls.

On the Lower Jhelam Canal the area of colonized land exceeds 400,000 acres. A feature of colonization on that canal is that half the area is held on condition of keeping up one or more brood mares, the object being to secure a good class of remounts. Succession to these grants is governed by primogeniture. On the Lower Bar! Doab Canal a very large area is now being colonized.

Canals of the N.W.F. Province.— Hemmed in as the N.W.F. Province is between the Indus and the Hills, its canals are insignificant as compared with the great irrigation works of the Panjab. The only ones of any importance are in the Peshawar Valley. These draw their supplies from the Kabul, Bara, and Swat rivers, but the works supplied by the first two streams only command small areas. The Lower Swat Canal was begun in 1876, but the tribesmen were hostile and the diggers had to sleep in fortified enclosures. The work was not opened till 1885. A reef in the river has made it possible to dispense with a permanent weir. The country is not an ideal one for irrigation, being much cut up by ravines. But a large area has been brought under command, and the irrigation has more than once exceeded 170,000 acres. In 1911-12 it was 157,650 acres, and the interest earned was o,f p.c. The Upper Swat Canal, which was opened in April 1914, was a

Fig. 47. Map of Canals of Peshawar district.

more ambitious project, involving the tunnelling at the Malakand of 11,000 feet of solid rock. The commanded area is nearly 450,000 acres, including 40,000 beyond our administrative frontier. The estimated cost is Rs. 18,240,000 or over £1,200,000 and the annual irrigation expected is 381,562 acres.