The First Kalabagh Proposal of 1871

KB Dam

By Naveed Tajammal

KPK remained part of Punjab till end of  the year 1900,this proposal was, First envisaged, much before, keeping in view the in detail surveys and costing done, to make it a viable project, however the proposal was put in, cold storage, it was only in 1881,That it came again under Review, and, eventually put away. It was proposed that a canal for irrigation of Sindh Sagar Do-aba be made, into a canal colony,[if made it would have been the tenth canal colony in Punjab,], from the sum of [Pounds Sterling], £ 750,000/- allotted by the GOI, to Govt. of Punjab, in 1881, for productive works in Punjab, Major-General .H.W. Gulliver of Royal Engineers, was the Joint-Secretary, to Govt, of Punjab PWD, Irrigation Branch, Who had proposed the idea once again, in a letter.No.910 dt.19 Aug.1881, sent to The Secretary  Govt. of Punjab, this article deals with the arguments which were made, the merits or demerits of the project.

This proposal had been forwarded on a note submitted by Mr. Garbett in 1871,which was attached, with yet, another note on the same subject by General Crofton, then Chief Engineer of Irrigation, in Punjab, in the same year 1871.

It was stated that, there is a point on the Indus just above Kalabagh where the river is confined in a narrow gorge, Waters from Attock to Kalabagh have a rapid declivity, before the gorge the waters are received in a deep pool of some miles in length at a height of 796 feet above sea level, it was proposed to draw water required from this pool, a bed of shingle which existed at the southern end of the pool forms a natural Weir over which the water flows into this place, no works would be required in the river bed, to turn the water into the canal, the shingle bed is a permanent from its natural position, and Indus bed at Kalabagh is much higher, than Jhelum at its corresponding point in its course, so that the canal might run across the Do-aba from Kalabagh into Jhelum, at Shahpur, and thus a canal with its head at Kalabagh will command the whole area lying between the Jhelum and Indus, though the volume of outflow has not been measured at Kalabagh as it varies from time to time, but this exercise can be done, however, we can safely assume it would be ample to supply any demand which may be made upon it for Irrigation,, there is a good supply of building material & land would be cheap, and as traffic is small, few bridges would be required, so that the construction of the canal would not be costly, however the difficulties would be the deep cutting at the head works, and the height to which the head works must be carried, because of the high rise of Indus when in Flood.

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The tract to be irrigated was 150 miles in length and 55 miles wide, which embraced the whole of waste land which was presently not giving any income to the state, as the ground water was 90 feet below, so wells were few and irrigation covered a few acres, from each well. The river water supply was far more in excess and would not affect the downstream farm lands, so what mattered most was fixing the dimensions of the canal keeping in view the proposed requirement, as the land to be irrigated was worked out in total to be 5,250,000 acres [Five million two hundred and fifty acres]and to irrigate one third of this area in step one, the water required as per calculations was 8,000 cubic feet per second.

The major issue under debate was that the population of the region was very scanty, and so the return on money to be invested, as the canal colonists would be very few, Here, kindly keep in mind that most of the ground work had been done in the years before 1871,So in 1881 the question was how to solve this issue, and it was necessary to consider from what quarter a population sufficient to cultivate & earn and return to the state the investment done, could be brought in from, The nine canal colonies in our Bars had been filled by canal colonists from the British East Punjab. the districts West of Delhi.

Though it was suggested that, districts which bound this tract on its west, east, north & south, could supply limited number of manpower, However the Lieut-Governor of Punjab was of view that, the greater number could be drawn from the Western-Trans-Indus regions. According to him, the Pathans beyond our borders are accustomed to frequent this tract with their sheep, camels and goats for ages, during the winter seasons, their own cultivable land is very scarce, and highly prized .And the same people would readily work in constructing the canal and cultivate the land irrigated by it after it has been constructed. As an example it was quoted that pathan were very industrious cultivators, as cultivation by them on their small plots in the Bannu valley, and in Peshawar District in the Mohmand and Khalil Tappa’s, as well in the Do-aba and Daudzai, strongly reflected their ability if given a chance. Sir R. Edgerton, the Lieutenant Governor was of a strong opinion that as had been seen since 1855 when borders had been opened for immigration of people from Kabul and Qandahar Regions in Trans-Indus regions, a very large influx had come and were settled in the districts as peaceful citizens & it would a good idea of civilizing our frontier Neighbours, according to our desires, and it would be than easy to manage them much more easily and economically than at present.

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It was also assessed that present income from this vast track of land was only,Rs.2,60,344/- earned  by the Govt. through cultivation & water charges and from Grazing Tax dues,Rs.73,827/-.

The Districts through which it was to pass, and bring waste lands under cultivation were Shahpur, Jhang, Bannu, D.I. Khan and Muzzafargarh. However in the end it was the cost of the total project, which amounted to almost £ 5 million [ pounds sterling],a colossal, amount in 1881,and it was decided that for far less cost, the Bar regions could be brought under cultivation.

It should be borne in mind of the nine canal colonies introduced by the British in our, Jech, Rechna & Bari Do-a, the first one was, Sidhnai colony located in the Bari-Do-ab, Multan District, and the colonization period lasted between 1886-1888,and total area which it eventually covered was 250,000 acres. The British were keen to colonize our regions with their own loyal people, who knew the yoke well and would not create issues in recovering the Govt. Dues, therefore from the British East Punjab, came the hordes of Abad-kars used to paying the Tax.

The British undertook in detail revenue settlements in each new district they formed by addition and subtractions, of revenue circles and unwanted lot were transported out to facilitate the new canal colonists, as the income from Agriculture remained the major source of income for the crown, till it ruled our lands, The advent of British revenue system put an end to our old collective ownership by the village communities, and established the Writ of the Crown as the giver of land. The result was as the people went more in the money economy ,they fell deeper in debt, to the new class of  The Market Grain Merchants, and the Masters of all the Hindu Money-Lender, The Debt led, to mortgage of their only Asset the Land, which the Hindu Khatri would be more than willing to assess according to his, own diabolic calculations, the introduction of the Anglo-Saxon Laws, with its, Civil & Penal Code, gave exceptional powers of manipulation to the money-lenders, and with the help of the new breed of Lawyers, which they could well afford, much to the disgust of the poor land owner, who was left at the mercy or whim of the public prosecutor, the law courts became Arena of Agrarian Battles, the winners were, the new breed of Vakils and their Khatri, financiers.

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Lastly before the signing of IWT 1960,as the water dispute issue continued with India, one of the proposals was, The Upper-Indus Link’ which passed through the heart of Potohar Plateau and joined Jhelum-Chenab Zone, along with enlarging link canals, and the storage facilities, India would not budge, they wanted the cheapest solution, as this was costing $ 2.3 Billion in 1956.The Indians always the masters of manipulation managed to convince our GOP, the ever gullible lot, to put forth a less expensive alternative, So our great Bureaucrats, proposed the Pakistan London Plan which eliminated the costly upper-Indus link through the Potohar plateauit proposed instead a Dam on the Jhelum, at Mangla to store water for replacement and a Dam on Indus at Tarbela to be used for development in Sindh and Via two trans-Thal links [Kalabagh-Jhelum & Taunsa-Panjnad],for replacement in the lower Punjab and Bahawalpur. The plan had also proposed three smaller storages on Indus & Jhelum tributaries and a series of link canals for bringing Jhelum water to the upper Punjab and upper Bahawalpur.

The cost of this in 1958 was much reduced to please Indians, all this was for $1.12 Billion. India objected to this too. The Kudos goes to Ayub Khan for blindly signing the final Draft of IWT 1960, at $893.5 million, of which $541 million was provided by consortium grants, India contributed $ 174 million, and Pakistan was given loans arranged by the World Bank amounting to $ 178.5 million. So Ayub Khan in reality gave the whole waters to India for $ 174 million, in 1960 that too was paid in installments, as they earned from the usage of the water, and opened up new canals, in their Punjab, and The Sikhs paid for the bulk share of the cost eventually. The Hindu pundit followed the maxim of the old British rulers who would often say, that, they were willing to defend their Durand line to the Last Sikh Soldier.