Upper Bari Doab Canal System

Upper Bari Doab Canal at Madhopur

In Punjab, the land between two rivers is known as doab and accordingly the region between Ravi and Beas is known as Bari Doab. Upper Bari Doab Canal, which originates at Madhopur near Pathankot, derives its name from it. It was the first canal to be dug up in Punjab for irrigational purpose; however, at that time it was simply known as Bari Doab Canal system. The prefix ‘Upper’ was added only when a second canal known as Lower Bari Doab Canal was dug.

Historical Background of Upper Bari Doab Canal

Canals are nothing new in India. In all probability, the Hasli Canal System was the pioneer in this field. This 130 mile long canal was dug by Emperor Shah Jahan to bring water to his garden in Lahore from the River Ravi. Centuries later, the same was extended by Maharaja Ranjit Singhji to bring water to fill up the sacred tank in the Golden Temple Complex. Unfortunately, none had the interest of the starving peasants in sight. The canal was never used for irrigation purposes. In the Mughal era, irrigation was mainly carried on through step wells, dug wells and tanks. In rare cases, short canals were dug to to water the fields.

However, the scenario changed when the two Lawrence brothers John and Henry took charge of Punjab in 1849.  At that time, the Khalsa force had been disbanded and the soldiers were forced to earn their living by tilling their small plots of land under adverse climatic condition. In fact, the peasants had to depend entirely upon the rains to water their small holdings and consequently what they earned was never sufficient for them.

It was Henry Lawrence who was moved by the condition of the Sikh peasants in the Bari Doab region and decided to do something about it. His plan was to intercept Ravi at some point in the foothills and then distribute the water through a network of canals. Thus was born the Bari Doab Canal project with its headwork located at Moadhopur near Pathankot city.

Very soon Henry roped in the British investors and with their financial help the project was started in 1851. However, the task was truly a difficult one. It was not only the nature of the soil, but also the topography of the region, which made the task all the more difficult. For example, there was a drop of about 326 feet in the first twenty miles of the main canal. Moreover, at that time, the river hydraulic was a new science in India. In spite of that, the work on the canal was completed by 1879 and by 1889, the interest account was cleared.

Benefits derived from the Canal

Upper Bari Doab Canal

The canal system not only benefited the British investors whose money was mainly used to dig the canal, but also the people of Punjab at large. They now could grow enough crops to sustain themselves throughout the year. Moreover, a large part of the produce could also be exported to United Kingdom. Hence, there had been an all round improvement in the economic condition of the people of the Bari Doab region. The British administration too was a direct beneficiary of the canal. Instead of hostile group ex-army men, they now had a loyal group of subjects at their beck and call.

Extension of Bari Doab Canal System

As the experiment was deemed successful, more canals began to be dug in different parts of the country.  Years later, another canal was taken off from Ravi in the Daob Bari region only. The new canal was known as Lower Bari Doab Canal while the original one began to be referred as Upper Bari Doab Canal.

Upper Bari Doab Canal and its Branches

The Upper Bari Doab Canal runs in a single channel for the first forty-eight kilometers. After that it branches out into two channels - Main Branch Upper and Kasur Branch Upper. The Kasur Branch runs for eleven more kilometers before it splits up into two sub branches - Subroan Branch and Kasur Branch Lower. The Main Branch Upper also diversifies into Main Branch Lower and Lahore Branch at Aliwal. Thus the Upper Bari Canal system provides irrigation facility to a large tract of land not only in Pathankot but beyond.

Present Upper Bari Doab Canal System

Power Station at Madhopur on UBDC System

The Madhopur headwork built in the mid nineteenth century has now been converted into a modern barrage capable of regulating the outflow of water more efficiently. In fact, after Ranjit Sagar Dam was commissioned, it became apparent that for full utilization of the accumulated water, Upper Bari Doab Canal system should be remodeled. The work started in the year of 2001 and was completed in 2005.

UBDC, as the project is now referred as, is spread over a length of 3119 Km. It now has seven branch canals, which in turn diversifies to form a network of 247 distributaries, known as the minor.  The total project has a command area of 5.73 lac hectres and an authorized discharge capacity of 9000 Cs of water. It also has a mini powerhouse with an installed capacity of 96.95 Mega Watt. Thus the project that began in an experimental basis has now become one the major irrigation projects of the land.

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