History of irrigation in Bihar – Ancient, British and upto Pre-plan Period – A report by the Water and Land Management Institute, Patna

Irrigation is being practiced there since ancient times dating back to Kautilya, who lived in Patliputra (now Patna), which was the capital of the mighty Mauryan empire (400 BC). Kautilya had laid down the principles on rainfall and irrigation in his famous book Kautilya Arthasashtra.

The report traces the history of irrigation in the ancient period through various sources since written documents are not readily available and inscriptions are rarely to be found. The pieces of information have been collected from going through the manuscripts of eminent engineers like C H Dickens, W A Inglis, F H Rundall, H C Levinge, R B Buckley and others whose contributions have enriched the science of hydraulics through centuries. Some of the names and formulae are relevant even today.

In Bihar the history of irrigation can be traced long back but one could find the systematic written documents from the early British period only. Sone canals, Teur canals, Saran canal, Dhaka Canal, Triveni canal and Kharagpur Irrigation Works are some of the earliest milestones on the path of scientific development of water resources in the State of Bihar.

Stories of the development of science of hydraulics and their application in old irrigation works have been narrated in this book. The old times are helpful in bringing out the old stories but their memories sometimes fall them as regards exactness of date and sequence of events. Existing structures and works tell their tale themselves but planners and engineers are obliged to alter, reshape, remodel or sometimes remove the old structures in toto to make room for the new ones to meet the increased demand. This has happened in Bihar where new projects have replaced the old ories or the old canals have been made the part of new larger system.

The report also records the passing of the new comprehensive and consolidated Irrigation bill in 1996 by the Bihar Legislature incorporating new concepts in the field of irrigation and repealing the old and defunct Irrigation Acts prevailing in the state since 1864. It also presents maps which depict the location of old irrigation projects constructed before Independence as also the numerous major and medium schemes which have since been implemented.

This report will be of immense value and interest to engineers, research scholars and the common man interested in knowing the background of irrigation in Bihar.