Concrete ‘progress’: Irrigation, development and modernity in mid-twentieth century Sind

Daniel Haines

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The idea of ‘developing’ Sind has been a lynchpin of government action and
rhetoric in the province during the twentieth century. The central symbols
of this ‘development’ were three barrage dams, completed between 1932 and
1962. Because of the barrages’ huge economic and ideological significance, the
ceremonies connected with the construction and opening of these barrages
provide a unique opportunity to examine the public presentation of state
authority by the colonial and postcolonial governments. This paper investigates
the way that ideas of ‘development’ and ‘modernity’ appeared in discourses
connected with these ceremonies, in order to demonstrate that the idea
of imposing ‘progress’ on a province considered ‘backward’ by the state
administrators survived longer than the British regime which had introduced
it. The paper begins with the historical links between water-provision and
governance in Sind, before examining the way that immediate political concerns
of the sitting governments were addressed in connection with the projects,
demonstrating the ways in which very similar projects were cast as symbols
of different political priorities. The last part of the paper draws out deeper
similarities between the logic of these political expressions, in order to
demonstrate the powerful continuity in ideologies of ‘progress’ throughout midtwentieth century Sind.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-200
Number of pages22
JournalModern Asian Studies
Issue number1
Early online date3 Nov 2010
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011


  • Pakistan, India, hydropolitics, water, state performance

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