By Zafar Ahmed


The River Chenab is one of the largest rivers of the Indus basin. The river Chenab basin measures about 67,500 km² of area. The River originates at 77°-30°E and 32°-50°N in Lahul and Spite district in Himachal Pradesh India. It flows through the Baralcha pass at an elevation of 5,000 M and enters the State of Jammu and Kashmir (India). Many streams join on both sides of the river in high mountainous region of about 500 kms long and flows out into the plains and enter Pakistan near Marala Barrage, in district Sialkot. After flowing through 600 km it joins the river Indus and then falls into the Indian Ocean near Karachi after a further 600 km.

The Khanki Headworks is the Oldest Barrage on River Chenab and was completed in 1892 with a most economical design. It was shuttered type weir comprising 8 Spans of 500 ft and Rope Bridge for controlling staff to move across the river. It is 56km downstream from Marala Barrage and is one of the oldest weirs in the Indian sub-continent. The water is diverted to a canal at left bank, irrigating 1.2 million hectors of land in 7 districts of central Punjab in Pakistan.

The existing Khanki Headworks has the capacity to pass the flood of 800,000 cusecs and in case of higher floods, some discharge is passed through breaches of u/s guide banks towards an unpopulated area to avoid any damage to the weir structure.

The average annual rainfall in the area is 950 mm and mean annual temperature is 30c°. The main weather system which causes heavy rainfall is due to monsoon incursion from Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal during July to September. The floods in River Chenab result from heavy rainfall in upper drainage basin which falls under the most active monsoon belt. The snow melt contributes on the average 40% of the total flow in July, and peak values occurring in months of August and September are due to monsoon rains. The history of past 92 years’ floods is shown in table.


Editor’s note: This story describes events that affected a project on which the author is currently working

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About the Author


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Zafar Ahmed, by profession a Civil Engineer, has worked in Middle East countries at planning and managing construction of heavy projects. He participated in planning and construction of the first balanced cantilever bridge over river Indus at old and historical crossings of invaders to India near Attock, about 35 years before. He also worked for large Hydro power projects of 1600 MW, 1500 MW and 1000 MW in Pakistan. Zafar participated in the rehabilitation of Adam – Salalah road, 200 km stretch and new dual carriageway from Sohar to Buraimi in Oman. He has therefore been engaged in planning and construction of multibillion $ construction projects overseas and in Pakistan. Presently he is working as resident civil works consultant with SMEC international at Khanki Barrage.

Zafar can be contacted at [email protected]