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Notes on the Geography of India Themes: Irrigation 4: the Ganges Canal and Haridwar

A similar story can be told in North India, represented here chiefly by the Ganges Canal, engineered by Proby Cautley and paid for by the East India Company.

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The Eastern Jumna canal, northeast of Delhi. Mogul-built, British restored, it became the model for the huge irrigation projects that the British undertook in the northern plains.

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The Ganges Canal was conceived to run from Haridwar to Allahabad but, as built, stopped at Cawnpore (Kanpur). Here are the headworks, flamingly pink.

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Gauge at the headworks, with offerings.

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Some miles downstream, the canal waters pass these old lions, guarding a famous aqueduct.

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It's the Solani Aqueduct. Millions and millions of locally made bricks support the canal as it crosses the wide valley of the Solani.

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The aqueduct, seen from up top.

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The canal divides many times along its course, but here is the main bifurcation point separating the Kanpur and Aligarh branches. It is dated 1852 and almost looks as though it could be an Impressionist painting of some idyllic spot in France.

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At Kanpur, the canal empties into the Ganges, where boats were once intended to pass from the canal to the river. They never did, and much of the canal's command never carried water, because of irrigation anarchy or--in the local jargon--"indiscipline."

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In 1990, when the previous pictures were taken, the World Bank had funded a project to replace the Solani Aqueduct with a new structure. Was it built? Who knew? This wasn't the kind of story that got a lot of press play. Fifteen years on, the opportunity presented itself to take another look: here was what met the eye. Quite a shock.

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A new aqueduct had indeed been built.

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A new canal fed into it.

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Looking downstream into the aqueduct.

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A monument had been erected. No lions this time.

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Had the old aqueduct been dismantled, as intended in 1990? Nope: here's the view from downstream, where water from the new aqueduct, on the right, joins water from the old.

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The same, from a different perspective. The old aqueduct was still very much in use; in fact, the current through it was swift, while the water in the new structure was nearly still.

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The fine old structure.

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Cast-iron railings.

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A bit battered.

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Elegant stairs.

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An underview to give a sense of scale and a glimpse of an added support.

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The lions had been repainted.

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Odd dentition.

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A nearby bridge over the old canal.

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And one over the new.

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Up at the Hardiwar headworks, the little shrine was still in place.

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The headworks were still pink, like everything else in town.

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The headworks are in the distance on the right; the gates on the left are escapes to reduce flow into the canal. The "river" here--and that's what it's taken to be by all the pilgrims who come to Haridwar--is basically the Ganges Canal: upstream a few hundred yards, in other words, control works divert the water into this course, and with the exception of water sent through the escape, the water of the pilgrims is the water of the irrigation system.

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A view of the riverfront, taken from a bridge.

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The view upstream from the same bridge.

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A bathing ghat.

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Haridwar's main street.

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The Sawarnkaron Dharamshala, one of many rest houses for pilgrims.

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We're another 10 miles upstream, where the Ganges emerges from the Himalaya at Rishikesh.

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Put that water to use!

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Peace and quiet at the Swami Dayananda Ashram, Rishikesh.


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