Haridwar Dam and Upper Ganges Canal

The source of the Ganges is in the peaks of the Himalayas; from there, it flows over 2,700 kilometers through the north Indian lowlands. It is a slow-flowing river, hundreds of meters wide. Towards the end of the dry season, in March, the water levels are usually very low.

Experts consider the construction of the Haridwar Dam in 1854 by the British, with a view to improving irrigation, to have contributed significantly to severe deterioration in the river’s flow. The dam diverted large portions of melt water from the Himalayas into the Upper Ganges Canal. Prior to the nineteenth century, the main stretch of the Ganges was navigable, but its water levels receded following the dam’s completion. Today, the Haridwar Dam is one of two structures that have a major impact on the river’s flow. The second is the Farraka Barrage in West Bengal, which opened in 1975 and is used to divert water in order to maintain a navigable waterway along the Hooghly River to the Port of Calcutta as well as for irrigation.

Further Readings: 
  • Stone, Ian. Canal Irrigation in British India: Perspectives on Technological Change in a Peasant Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
  • Whitcombe, Elizabeth. "Irrigation." In The Cambridge Economic History of India, c.1757–c.1970. Vol. II, edited by Dharma Kumar: 677–732. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.