The main canal was originally forty miles long, averaging 109 feet wide, with an average slope of one foot to the mile, and capable of carrying seven feet four inches of water, or 10,000 cubic feet, per second. Twenty-eight miles have since been enlarged to a width of 250 feet and the remaining twelve miles to a width of 150 feet. The canal has been deepened to nine feet six inches, and the intention is to deepen it one foot more. The banks of the main canal are twenty-five feet wide at the top and are built entirely of earth. A railway ninety-six miles long of three-foot gauge has been constructed down the main canal, which is a great convenience in shipping crops and pays a profit to the government. It was constructed by the canal engineers while the ditch was being dug. There are 390 miles of branch canals from thirty to fifty feet wide and from six to eight feet deep, and 2,095 miles of distributaries, or ditches running between villages and squares. The banks of the branches and ditches are all wide enough for highways, and thus enable the people to go from village to village and get their crops to market. Several towns of considerable size have already grown up; the largest, called Lyallpur, having about 10,000 inhabitants. It is the headquarters of the canal and also of the civil authorities; and scattered through the irrigated country are about 100 permanent houses used as residences and offices by the superintendents and engineers.
THE FRONTIER QUESTION
The most sensitive nerve in the British Empire terminates in Afghanistan, and the ghost of the czar is always dancing about the Khyber Pass, through which caravans laden with merchandise find their way across the mountains between India and the countries of Central Asia. Every time there is a stir in a clump of bushes, every time a board creaks in the floor, every time a footstep is heard under the window, the goose flesh rises on John Bull’s back, and he imagines that the Great White Bear is smelling around the back door of his empire in India. Peshawur is the jumping-off place of the Northwest, the limit of British authority, the terminus of the railway system of India and the great gateway between that empire and Central Asia, through which everything must pass. It is to the interior of Asia what the Straits of Gibraltar are to the Mediterranean Sea, and the Dardanelles to the Black and Caspian seas. While there are 300 paths over the mountains in other directions, and it might be possible to cross them with an army, it has never been attempted and would involve dangers, expense and delays which no nation would undertake. The Khyber Pass has been the great and only route for ages whether for war or commerce. The masters of Central Asia, whether Persians, Greeks, Macedonians or Assyrians, have held it. Alexander the Great crossed it with his army. Timour the Tartar, whom we know better as Tamerlane, came through upon his all-conquering expedition when he subdued India to found the Mogul Empire, and if the Russians ever enter India by land they will come this way.