Lahore is the second largest city of Pakistan and the provincial capital of Punjab. A city known for its dynamism and festive spirit, Lahore is one of Pakistan’s major cultural centers. A major testament to the city’s rich cultural heritage is the Lahore Canal Road, which starts from BRB Canal. Back in the 70s, there was little traffic, and one caught glimpses of couples sitting on the canal’s grassy verge. On hot summer evenings, we would park and sip a beer or two while watching leaves glide by.
The BRB Canal
BRB Canal was initially built by the Mughals, a 60 km long extension was made towards west of the city till the Raiwind by the British Government in 1861. This 82-kilometer-long, tree-lined Bambawali Ravi-Bedian Canal (BRB) stream slices its way through the heart of Lahore. It is meandering through posh colonies, smooth highways, famous colleges, scenic student hostels and cheery cricket grounds. It is a center of a unique linear park that serves as one of the longest public green belts and popular recreational destination spots and it is bounded by roads on either side called the Canal Bank Road.
Canal Road Construction
The BRB Canal at the east of the city of Lahore was already constructed in Mughal Era of the Indian Subcontinent, however, during the British Raj, the British sliced the BRB Canal and extended it on the west side (city of Lahore) till the town of Raiwind, located in south of Lahore. The idea to extend the canal may have possibly emerged because an irrigation system was felt necessary after a disastrous famine hit the Subcontinent in 1837-38 in which nearly ten million rupees was spent on relief works, resulting in considerable loss of revenue to the British East India Company.
Canal Road Route
It starts from BRB canal, few yards away from the Khaira Village, dividing the old neighborhoods of Lahore (on the west-side of the Canal) from the trendy areas of the privileged rich (on the east side of the Canal). After crossing the Thokar Niaz Baig it turns left and moves parallel to the Raiwind road. Flowing between the main highways, the canal also serves as the chief artery of the city.
Canal Road in Summer
The canal is an important part of Lahore’s culture. During summers, its very sight is a relief to the Lahoris. In those hot, simmering days hundreds of people come to swim. They eat watermelons and generally have good time in the canal. Young boys make the crowd but in the evenings one sees a good number of families sitting on the banks, the women with their feet in the water.
Canal Road Decoration
On local, national and religious festivals, such as Jashn-e-Bahara (Welcoming Spring), Basant, Eid, Pakistan’s Independence Day and Pakistan Day the canal is illuminated with lights and different types of decor are laid out into the water relevant to the festival.
Culture and Arts
A Model of Darvesh Molana Rumi floating in the canal, an artistic example of Sufism in Lahore.The canal is an important part of Lahore’s culture. During summers, its very sight is a relief to the Lahoris. In those hot, simmering days hundreds of people come to swim. They eat watermelons and generally have good time in the canal. Young boys make the crowd but in the evenings one sees a good number of families sitting on the banks, the women with their feet in the water. Many companies also use the canal as a great way to promote their brand.
Canal Road Problems
- Unhealthy water
The canal water is said to be toxic and unhygienic. Lahoris swim on a hot Sunday in the Lahore Canal. The samples of the canal water were examined at the Environment Department’s specialised laboratory in Lahore and showed “excessive limits of sulfide, biochemical oxygen demand, chemical oxygen demand (COD), total dissolved solids, total suspended solids, chlorine and sulphate; a disturbed pH balance and several other imbalances” because of the chemicals being thrown into the canal. The report found that all of the pollutants were in excess of the limit set by national environment quality standards. Regrettably, lower-class citizens swim in that water and some even drink from it, oblivious to the fact that this polluted water can cause diseases like hepatitis and various skin diseases.
In early 2008, water was stopped from flowing into the canal to carry out de-silting and cleaning up any mess from the canal-bed. Cranes were seen digging out all the mud and filling truck-loads on the canal banks. After the process has been completed and the canal bed looks beautifully uniform, the irrigation officials announced to allow water in from February 10, 2008; all to the joy and relief of many Lahoris and the villagers alike.
- Government Ignorance
Lahore Bachao Tehreek’s (Save Lahore Movement) case against the widening of the Lahore Canal was still pending before the Supreme Court. Up till now, no steps had been taken to purify the waters of the canal, seeing that political and public interests were being mixed and the country’s rulers were not bothered about the issue at all.
“The water in the canal is made to look clean and purified when VIPs have to go along the canal route, after which there is a return to the dismal conditions,” Dr Ijaz (Lahore Conservation Society Information Secretary) said, adding that the government was not sincerely concerned about the welfare of its people and was exposing them to the harmful water of the canal.
The canal is perhaps among those few purposeful, historical and valued structures of this city which might never loose its life and significance. And what a life it has lived! The canal saw the 1947 partition of India (and the consequent birth of Pakistan) when its waters turned red with blood. It has occasionally witnessed the negligence of our city government when the poor thing is sucked out of all the water.
|Length||51 miles (82 km)|
|Start point||BRB canal, few yards away from the Khaira Village|
|End point||Raiwind Road|
|Branch of||Bambawali Ravi-Bedian (BRB) Canal|
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