Dehradun’s Canal System – A lost Heritage

By Anjali Agrahari

When it says that everything has both positive and negative aspects, the domination of British rule over north India has given Dehra a gift of value and innovation. Dehradun a city of rich water resources, Britisher significantly looked at it and realized that it is something worthy. Yes! the great network of canals is their gift to Dehradun. But somehow today we only highlight the negative shades of British ruling and we forgot to sustain what we were gifted. After becoming Dehradun as a capital, the government started working on the modern methods of development rather than sustaining the old one. Underground canals started existing and making those rich water bodies invisible.

cautley's Engineering for canal

Cautley’s Engineering for canal

The thing that should be pointed is that, the disappearance of canals effecting the history and heritage of the city. Will upcoming generation see these canals only in portraits placed in museums? Will the hashtags #city_of_canals no more exist? It’s true that time decides the existence, but all these points are the branches of the main question that is how much sustainable these underground canals are for our upcoming generations and maintaining natural ‘environment’? Then chief secretary Madhukar Gupta supported the idea of having these canals underground started primarily to counter traffic problems in the city.  This decision to do the Raipur canal underground flipped the coin and changed the face of the valley. After that, many canals went underground and much more to go. Though this decision has made some main roads spacious but also resulted in ecocide.

Not only history, fields like geography, sociology as well as science is now concern about the sustainability of underground canals that are made. What government finds easy is ‘money based work’ adopting the concept of modern era where every change comes under development. They forget that not every change is development! Since government has become blind innovators, localities know the essence of the city. People living in Dehra are now facing a problem of replenishing  charm and glory of the city and city itself are under threat of losing its unique identity. Many people also think that Dehradun is under rapid transformation at a very high cost.

These underground canals gird around 52 km. Canals like Dharampur Canal, starting from Nany’s Bakery till Bengali Kothi encompassing a distance of 6.29 km, the Kargi canal stretch from Haridwar Road to Tyagi Road that transverses a distance of 1.55 km, Rajpur feeder canal has been done underground from Haridwar Road till Jogiwala Mussoorie bypass road covering a distance of 2.756 km, the Kargi canal stretch from Haridwar Road to Tyagi Road that transverses a distance of 1.55 km, Kanwali canal, the stretch starting from Garhi Cantonment thana to Transport Nagar entailing a distance of 8.667 km have been done underground at the cost of  Rs 366.18 lakh, 70 lakh, 186.76 lakh,  426.98 lakh, 36.7 lakh respectively. More often, Rajpur canal and the Bengali Kothi-Mothorowala stretch of the Dharampur canal are in process to go underground.

canals of dehradun for agriculture

Basmati rice is grown near these irrigation systems

The significance of ecology and cooling system of Dehradun, canals, are not only the living source for livelihood but also the basic resource for the water mills of Dehra. In the sake of development, we are destroying our heritage. People who gifted us this kind of unique water body networks are themselves not destroying their heritage and developing cities in a parallel phase. The reason that is encountering the canals is traffic problems. No other alternative then these water bodies are taken into charge, neglecting the encroachments which can be seen everywhere. Not only this it will be difficult to immerse idols and probably a tough time for the devotees of Chhath festival. Also, due to underground canals, during monsoon, the areas which are in low lying zones will witness water logging unlike in the past.

According to the irrigation department, traffic problems are not only the issue that resulted in underground canals but there are many benefits that we are going to obtain through this like Water pollution will not resist the usability of canal waters. No clear statements are the sign that there can be alternate disturbance too. What if people will start connecting sewage line with underground canals that no one will be able to check out. Also the cost they are trying to reduce water cleaning is still facing the dilemma  that even if these canals are made underground, water cleaning will still be required but may be at a less frequency because it can’t be denied that these underground water bodies are artificially made thus need special attention unlike in natural underground water bodies.They are highlighting EC and GMS road as the finest example of wide space road resulted from underground canals have still some questions arising that what is the most basic need that should be given priority, roads or living resource (water)? These canals have given a sea of opportunities to local people for getting their living resource without any barrier. Now covering of canals is the barrier.

History says, the other side of Rispna, connecting the rajpur and sahastradhara road, Rajpur canal was a great source of hydropower resourcing three mills nearby it, in which two of them were similar, vault-roofed buildings situation about 100 meters apart. The third was owned by a local family. The structure of mills indicates that how canals were driving them at a foundation level. About many milestones, mills were used to generate hydropower. Early, hydropower was used for grinding grains and powering other mechanical approaches. Government is trying to overlook these structures and specialties at the angle for a favour of development. They think that this valley can be a marvelous spot for tourism. This city is an abandonment of huge environmental resources and natural eye soothing sites. Neglecting these natural gifts and proposing ideas for the sake of development by ruining it’s heritage and identity is definitely a bad idea.

The unsustainability of these underground canals as a development lies under an overall fact that what a person will do when he/she will die out of thrust and their lands will become barren because of lack of accessibility of water resources? In a country like India were people are majorly dependent on farming and other agricultural activities, what local people of this valley will do with these widen concrete roads when they don’t have to earn to by vehicles? Dehradun is not Delhi which has a huge traffic problem that it creates an urgent need to make roads in place of water canal! Not only traffic problem, the benefits government is talking about are still underestimating the power of nature and it’s ability to balance the whole environment, which says that cleaning of water bodies are self-orientated because of the unique structure of canals. Canals are self-sufficient to regulate its water and prevent them to get contaminated. In place of such kind of development programs, we need self-awareness program to aware people that these canals are a basic resource just as their motherland and that’s why we need to respect it and we should not make it dirty because ultimately we are going to get benefit from it. And it is the matter of reminder that if people will not realize their part of duty then no government or development plan can satisfy the need of changing generations.

British architecture of canals of dehra

British architecture of canals of dehra

No invention or making can develop any area until unless it is headed by all sides. Also till when a government will keep doing changes and developments to encounter any problem created by people around. Next term which comes out of the mouth of power holders and development makers is ‘tourism’. How will they create tourism when they will lose their natural environment which is the key reason for tourism. No environment means no tourism! People from different areas come out of their human-made environment to soothe their mind by relaxing in the natural milieu. It is sure that people will not come to see widen roads and resolved traffic problems by wasting their money, time and energy. That’s why underground canals are highly costly for reasons stated by the government. Local people know it very well that no development can occur by disappearing the essence of history in the name of generalizing things according to the time. Canals are the safe water resource for hill people as well as areas where municipal supplies are often inadequate. We need to realize the importance of such structures and layers of history that is loved and maintain hundred years into future. Sustainable development does not state changes but it state changes that are necessary and the result of change will not create a loss of prior benefits and has a long-lasting efficiency. Canals in this beautiful valley are like roots of a tree, which goes at different places to collect and distribute important resources to grow this tree and make it live lasting creating a fruitful branch like this city needs.

 

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