Prelude To Indus Water Treaty Part -Four

By Naveed Tajammal

A gross misconception exists in our well read elite that prior to the Advent of British Adventurers, with their Lethal network of canal systems, we had No canals or, that, Irrigation by Canals was a subject alien, to our indigenous population, and that had, the British Raj been not been kind to us, by introducing their canal system, we would never have had Karachi as a sea port nor a network of Railway lines criss crossing our landscape. To enlighten this class, and give brief insight to our past, and our irrigation methodology, we have to study our old systems.

It was the British need to introduce the Railways in our regions, it was the same Strategic ,administrative reasons that had led the Moghuls to focus on having a sound well maintained road link between Dehli and Kabul. And likewise the need to convert Karachi into a major sea port of the emerging British Empire, It was, for such reasons, that, ,The British had  began survey of Karachi as a port [1858] and a proposed railway line link till Kotri. and, a steam boat service to connect kotri with multan, by 1861 the First railway line had been opened to public joining Karachi with Kotri,105 miles long, the Lahore-Multan Line was opened in 1865,by 1876 the three railway bridges on Ravi-Chinab and Jhelum were ready, and the Lahore-Jhelum rail link opened to public, by 1878 the Link between Lodhran -pano akil was as well opened, During the 2nd Afghan war [1878-80] a need was felt to link the newly made Quetta Cantonment with the main Railway line network, and by 1887,the link had been established, by 1889 Karachi was connected by Rail with Peshawar. The point being the actual 9 canal colonies came later, with their network of irrigational canals.

Without this Irrigational network which was the greed of British to rake in the most, to feed their white hunger, or provide fibre for their ever hungry cotton mills, The problems of 1947 under review would have been much less, there would not have been any communal issues, The Hindu and Sikhs or others who came from East Punjab in quest of riches in our regions would not have come, The Muslim predominance would have been a clear divide in our award, Gurdaspur Muslim majority Tahsils as well of Amritsar would have automatically been ours, Kashmir issue would too not have, been there, as chinab river, would have been just another river flowing here, as it had in the past, The populations would have been much less all over, and, West Pakistan would have emerged with a population of hardly 20 million, with unlimited virgin lands awaiting wonders of modern technology minus Water-logging and salinity  the curses of British Canal system. The communal inter-mixture as was seen, after 1947, would not have been, the cause being the lure of the fertile lands of 9 canal colonies for which the Sikhs and Hindus did their utmost to retain by fair or foul means, as did their trading classes by bank rolling RSS thugs as well the Akal fauj Sikhs, and subsequent mayhem.

  Today: KSE 30 October 2012 bearish trend

British take a undue credit for introducing canal networks in our region, should one take as an example, the case of Muzzafargarh district, though a new name, as earlier the whole region was controlled from Sitpur [1450’s onward], and the Nawabs were called ‘Nahar’s, their writ, was till Duki [now loralai, Balluchistan] and down to Kashmore, as River Indus, had joined Chenab till 1794,at Shehr Sultan. The time attributed to Most of the canals found in this District due to loss of records is, between early 18th century and early 19th century the rule of Dewan Sawan Mal, the, Sikh era, Governor of Suba e Multan. What most forget, is that our region was a agrarian belt since inception of Indus valley civilization, and various means of irrigation had been developed over the years, to irrigate the fields under cultivation, in regions where rivers did not flow ‘Karez system of inter-connected deep wells linked by underground channels was used. Water diviners [sar’ev’var/ Ab-sanaas/jal-khoji] were employed to locate the underground water channels.

Reverting to Muzzafargarh and its old canal network, All the canals were linked with either Indus or Chenab, A total of  ”155’ different canals, including the main canals as well the numerous branches, as tabulated, existed much before the British rule.

[i] The ‘Maggassan canal had been dug in 18th century or earlier, it had these branches; Chaudri, Nangni, Dhol, Sirmuni, Kesho, Ganda Bhubbar, Ganda Parhar, Raju, Karya Chaudri, Nabi wah, Sardar’wah, Karaya Muhammadpur, Karaya Gaman khan, Karaya Khanpur, Karaya sinawan, Karya Tej bhan, Muradwah, Nangnis kalan, Nangnis Khurd, Jan Muhammad, Pirwah, Hamza, chakar khan, Karya Khokhar, Karya Tibbi, Nizam, Nala Chuan and Ghulam’wah.

[ii] The Maggi canal network had Khudadad, kot’wah, karya kuhawar, haji ishaq, Bul e wali, Sultan Khar, Fazil kalru.

[iii] The Suk canal, had six  important branches, Jakhri’wah, Thal’wah, San’wah, Kalu’wah, Sardar Khurd and Ahmed’wah.[iv] Dinga canal had three important branches, Bhangar’wah, Sardar Kalan and Nang’wah.[v] Alli-Khalli, were two different canals, however later were merged in one main canal, it had four main branches, Alliwah, Khalliwah, Jhandau, and Dharkanwala.

  CDC Documentary

[vi] Talhiri, had 10 branches, beside itself, Shaikh Takan mal, Rajwah Garbhi, Raj wah Sharqi, Haji wah, Khanwah, Ghazanfar wah, pirwah, Nangniwah, Khokhar wah, Nur wah.

[vii] Jhangawar canal had two main branches, Pirwah and Makhnau, [viii] Karam wah, had beside itself 5 main branches, Bighari, Fattu Fannakka, Massu’wah, Akbar’wah.

[ix] Ganesh wah, had 6 branches beside itself, Kraya, Waliwah, Khandar, Lunda, Jalalabad, Jagatpur.

[x] Kot sultan, irrigated the outer Daira Din panah, [xi] Garku canal beside itself had 13 branches, Hinjrai, Din mohammad, Radla  ,Mohanwah, Rajjbah, Riyatwah, Nngni, Khan chand, Fazil, Panjhathi, Mirwah and Utani.

[xii] Adil wah, had 9 different branches, Karya khokhar, Karya isa bhabe’wal, kraya rakh sarkari, karaya Dewalewala, makwal wala, menghwala, paunta malana, biluchan a wala and harpallo.

xiii] Ghuttu canal was made using a  creek of indus, earlier it was called, ‘Chitta, it had 22 different branches, Pir wah, Raj wah, kalanshah, Hammarwali, Darin,  Ba’hishti, Bakht’wah, Azim’wah, Rerhu, Fattu’mal, Mohri’wal, Karya Jannun, Tah’li’wala, Sardar wah, Chajra kass’i, Ahmad shah, Khandar, Karam, Muradpuri, Haji’wah, Harnam wah and Ghallu.

[xiv]] The Puran canal was a old bed of Indus, dug to make it a canal, later linked with Indus river,, it likewise had 24 different canals, which had been made over the Time, From Mughal to sikh era, as had been the case of other above mentioned, Nabi bakhsh shahwala, Shaikh kaure khan, Bhukhi, Turk wala, Sandila wala, Khanana, Namana, Kapre khas, Said wah, Pir wah, Pannu wah,  Matwani wali, Sultan wah, Raj wah, Bhagti, Kadra, Rakh wah, Baz wah, Ghauspur wah, Bhawal wah and Khan wah.

[xv]] Sohrab canal network had 3 different canal branches, Jogi wah, Mughal wah, Ratan wah, Suliaman wah.

[xvi] Suleman canal had three main branches, Khanwah and Wah’li, and Soharu canal had 7 branches, Khairpur, Mithan wali, Nabipur, Sultanpur, Lal’wah and Umar’wah.

With reference to our indigenous canals made much before British rule, Their management used to be by Irrigators ,assisted by local state officials, who took labour from the users of the water, for the maintenance of the canals and cleaning up of silt in the dry seasons. Before the British came there were no water charges, charged by the state. A system called ‘Chher’ was employed, Darogha’s and Mir’ab’s were the officials who managed the canal affairs, from the funds, ‘Zar i Nagha’. This fund was collected by fines imposed by those neglecting to give labour for maintenance of the canals, and other improvements needed from time to time, assessment of ‘Chher’ was based on water requirement of users in each canal branch, by taking in account the, total water usage of last three years, and so a average, was calculated, Sar panch were the representatives of the users, on each canal, and total land irrigated, by the branch was worked out in consultation with state officials and the patwari would than issue chits to each, to provide manpower /labour required those who failed to give it, were fined.


The Greedy British did not like this system, and wanted revenues from water usage too, so they evolved a system of water charges based upon water sources, Rates in this district varied, as the waters of Chenab were regarded superior to Indus, on account of rich fertilizing silt they carried.[i] well water termed Chahi’ had different rate, canal water was Nahri’, lift water was ‘Jhallar’, double lift water, was ‘Beghar’, and flow irrigated ‘Tukka’.The ‘Jhatta’ method of lift irrigation was, by using a bucket made of goat skin, lowered in river from the high bank, tied to two ropes, operated by two men, and emptied in the water channel, of the fields nearby. When the British came almost 76 % of total cultivable land of the district then was under cultivation, inclusive, that of 54,888 acres which were irrigated by wells, using cattle to rotate the wheel,,28,363 acres by creeks and water ponds ‘dhands’ [jhallars],only 124,255 acres of canal irrigated was based on flood water inundation canals which provided water for 7 months, rest of canals had access to waters of rivers all year round, as waters flowed free, no Dams had been constructed to stop the flow, nor had the major rivers been diverted to other regions. The steamer services by British or our indigenous river transportation system earlier to this even, carrying a tonnage of 200 tons, grains or other merchandise, run earlier to canal system introduced, are a testimony to high water even in winters which supplied water all year round, and water logging or salinity curses were not seen in our fair land.

Serious water logging/salinity was reported in our lower Chenab regions by 1908,the lower Chenab canal having come in operation just 16 years back in 1892.At the time of our Independence in 1947,Thanks to canal colonies and related canal networks all over. We had 11 million acres under water logging, and 16 million were affected by Salinity [5 million acres severely salinized] -Colombo plan report’, extracts from ‘Landforms, soils and Land use of Indus plains-West Pakistan.Ottowa-1958.A Canadian venture hired to do the surveys,1951 onward.

[To be continued]