History of navigation in the River Ganga_2013

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This presents a time-line of transport along the Ganga, now designated as National Waterway 1

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  • The massive and perennial river that cuts across the breadth of the subcontinent seems to be a natural choice for transport of people, goods and armies. However, it is mystifyingly difficult to obtain reliable reports of navigation in the Ganga before the 17 th century, with the notable exception of Akbar, who brought his armies downstream to conquer Bengal. One reason for this apparent lack of interest in the use of a cheap means of transport could be the lack of law and order along the river. J.C. Johnston speculates that the fragmented kingdoms could have led to a relative lack of safety along the river.
  • Major James Runnell, the first Surveyor General of India, was charged with mapping the Ganga in 1781. While his mandate was to focus on Bengal and Bihar, he did mention that river traffic was uninterrupted at the confluence of Ganga and Jamuna, or at Allahabad as we know it today. This traffic largely consisted of salt and sand. 300 years later, the sand traffic remains extant with very little difference in the boats being used.
  • By the middle of the 19 th century however, trade along the Ganga from the Bengal coast to Allahabad was well established, with several steamboat companies being in operation around that time. This period can be called the golden age of navigation in the Ganga. Not only had the volume of traffic increased, but also its reach. The 1854 Gazetteer mentions that steamboats were plying as far as Garhmukteshwar, and were common upto Kanpur. Shortly after this, two other projects- the expansion of the railways and the construction of the Ganga and Yamuna canals effectively reduced the reach and volume of cargo traffic which would never after recover.
  • History of navigation in the River Ganga_2013

    1. 1. A brief timeline of navigation on the Ganga
    2. 2. Before the 17thcentury:Fragmented kingdoms mean only localtransport, says J.C.JohnstonAkbar brings his army to Bengal by boat inthe mid-16thcentury
    3. 3. Major James Runnell, the first Surveyor General of India, was charged withmapping the Ganga in 1781.
    4. 4. The Golden age of navigation in the Ganga was the mid-19thcentury. Not only was thevolume at its peak, but private steamboat companies were plying as far upstream asGarhmukteshwar.Image: "The East India Steam Navigation Companys steamer Stanley, steaming on theGanges," Illustrated London News, 1862(source:http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00routesdata/0500_0599/shipping/g
    5. 5. Soon after this golden age, two otherprojects- the expansion of the railways and theconstruction of the Ganga and Yamuna canalseffectively reduced the reach and volume ofcargo traffic which would never after recover.Travelling Slowly down the Ganges resultedin an iconic book for Eric and Wanda Newby.Part of the reason this book is so riveting isthe drama created by the many problems theyfaced with reduced flows downstream ofHaridwar.Their frustrations might be attributed to theUpper Ganga Canal which diverted most ofthe water out of the river itself. Navigation onthe Ganga was effectively grounded by lowflows and by the railways.
    6. 6. In 1986, the Inland Waterways Authority was established to develop navigation on the main rivers of India. A 1620km stretch of the Ganga from Haldia to Allahabad has been designated as the National Waterway no 1. (source:http://iwai.nic.in/index1.php?lang=1&level=2&sublinkid=145&lid=164)
    7. 7. In 1986, the Inland Waterways Authority was established to develop navigation on the main rivers of India. A 1620km stretch of the Ganga from Haldia to Allahabad has been designated as the National Waterway no 1. (source:http://iwai.nic.in/index1.php?lang=1&level=2&sublinkid=145&lid=164)

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