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THE ASIATIC SOCIETY.
No. 95.-NOVEMBER, 1839.
ART. I.-Memoir on the Climate, Soil, Produce, and Husbandry of Afghanistan and the neighbouring Countries.-By Lieut. IRWIN.l
PART II.-OF SOIL.
90. It may appear an easy task to learn the nature of the soil in the various districts, or at least the more ostensible properties, such as colour and consistency, but in practice many disappointments will be experienced. Informants are apt to impose upon the inquirer their own petty experience, for the general truth of things; on few subjects is local vanity found so strong a vitiating testimony. Moreover, let the testimony be ever so candid, the circumstances of the case present some other difficulties. It is well known that within short distances the nature of the soil is often found to vary in all degrees. Evidence as to a small part of the district is here but little conclusive with respect to the whole, and it requires a large induction of particulars (which may not always be procurable) to establish an accurate generalization; and the terms used are often vague and of difficult interpretation. However strange, it is yet true, that the ideas of the Asiatics on colour are very different from ours, and their arrangement and nomenclature are calculated to mislead an inexperienced inquirer. From all these causes the following observations must be received, as they are offered, with distrust.
91. The immediate environs of Delhi are of a sandy soil, though not a mere sand, and generally of a yellow colour. In the northern road to Lodhiana after a few stages the soil becomes more and more loamy and black. The soil of Paneeput is a fine sandy loam. At Umbala, which lies on the left of the Kughur, the soil is a deep loam or mud, of a dark brown colour and great strength. Kughur and Sursootee running in a muddy soil are narrow and deep, and hence a slight fall of rain makes them impassable. The Markunda, which the traveller crosses between Shadeepoor and Lundee, before he reaches the Sursootee, ultimately falls into that stream; it runs in sand, and is shallow and broad. At Sirhind and as far as Lodhiana the soil has a greater proportion of sand than on the banks of the Kughur. The soil of the country of Bhutner is various. The cultivated parts are loam or sandy loam; some of the pastures contain tracts of sand hills, and others of level hard clay. Under the great northern hills the soil has a great proportion of mud, of a rich quality and much natural moisture. In the road between Delhi and Lodhiana, water in wells is found at moderate depths, but to the left hand, in Hureeana and Bhutner, we come to places where the wells are of considerable depth.
92. In the Dooab or country lying between the Sutluj and Beah, we find the soil to possess considerable variety, but on the whole it may be described as a sandy loam of excellent quality, very little elevated above the surface of the rivers, and the wells are consequently shallow. The Beah runs in sand, and sweeps away in its waters sand of a yellow colour; the Sutluj in the rainy season is more turbid and muddy. The right bank of the Beah is high and sandy, and there seems to be a gradual descent thence to the Ravee. The soil of this part of the upper Punjab has a great proportion of sand, but yet has sufficient firmness. The remaining two Dooabs have a less proportion of sand, yet little loam is to be seen. In some places tracts occur which are naturally sterile. In the upper Punjab, the greatest cultivation, though perhaps not the greatest population, is in places near the great range of hills which bound it to the north-east, the soil there having less sand and being of superior quality. On the whole strangers have too high an opinion both of the natural advantages and of the population of this province. Its water is much boasted of, and that of the rivers may deserve praise, but that of the wells is seldom good.
93. In this respect it is much excelled by the Dooab of the Hydaspes and Indus, in which the water is peculiarly good. I must be understood as speaking of that in or near the Embassy's route from
Attock on the Indus, to Julalpoor on the Hydaspes; it has been already mentioned that some parts of the country to the left, or northeast of that route, are noted for Goitres, a disease occasioned by bad water, (see paragraph 89.) The soil in the greater part of this Dooab but especially Pothwar, is a light yellow sand, which the rains cut into deep ravines in the most irregular and curious manner; every year the existing plain grounds are thus destroyed and new ones formed. Sometimes beneath the sand are seen strata of loose rounded stones, or of silt, stone, and sand, and these layers are sometimes of great thickness. Water in wells is near the surface, but the farmers are not at the expense of digging wells for irrigating their Rubbee crop, putting trust in the winter and spring rains, and the natural goodness of their land. Huzara and Pukhlee have good soils of various kinds, but yet inferior to Chhuchh; they have however greater command of water for irrigation. The soil of Kushmeer is generally loam, and in colour black or dark brown. The district of Pamper, in which alone saffron is produced, is a red clayey loam. The soil of Kushmeer and the nearest hills around it, is remarkably free from stones. The Hydaspes when low, is sea-green and turbid, its waters on reaching the Punjab are of a deep coffee colour. Its alluvial matter is loam, that of the Indus sand.
94. We return to Delhi to detail the nature of the soil in the Embassy's route thence to Peshawur. It becomes more and more sandy from Delhi to Rewaree and Kanour. The wells are of considerable depth, and the water often brackish. The country of the Shekhawuts, which next succeeds, is superior in all these respects, and the fields have occasionally a few stones in them derived from the low hills which traverse this tract. Leaving it we enter a sandy plain, generally abounding with sand hills. The depth of the wells increases at every stage till we reach Beekaneer, where it amounts to 264 feet. The water is sometimes good and sometimes brackish in various degrees. That of Nathoosur is peculiarly bad. Beyond Beekaneer the desert is commonly considered as beginning. To twelve miles beyond Poogul, or sixtyseven miles from Beekaneer, the same soil continues; but the sand hills are higher than before. Next commences a level hard smooth clay; this is locally called Chitrang, and it is only in such tracts that the traveller imagines he sees lakes and rivers before him. To the western edge of the desert is eighty-three miles more, and about half of this distance is clay, the other half sand, which appears to have been nearly blown over the clay. From Beekaneer the depth of the wells gradually decreases. The soil of the desert, generally considered, is not inferior
to that of Beekaneer, and where the sand and the clay are mixed in due proportions, is of an excellent quality. It is therefore neither the bad. ness of the soil, nor the depth of the wells, as commonly imagined, that causes the desert to be so thinly peopled, neither is its water worse than that of the tracts to the eastward. There are several reasons to think it was in former times better inhabited. It is unquestionably for the interest of the British Government, that it should be utterly uninhabited and impassable; a little address and a moderate expense could effect this object even with a due regard to the rights of the present inhabitants.
95. The edge of the desert at Buhawulpoor is only three miles from the left bank of the Ghara, and the space between them from the north-west point of Sadik Khan's dominions to where the Ghara is lost in the Chunab (see paragraph 32) is seldom much more than double this distance. This narrow tract is of a soil not to be surpassed in fertility. When dry its surface has a degree of whitishness perhaps originating from a mixture of chalk; when watered it appears black. It is deep and friable, and may be called a clayey loam or mud. The Ghara when low has a whitish colour, and its water is very good. Its bed abounds in quicksands, having that mixture of fine sand and mud which seems calculated to form them. The rivers in general of the Punjab as well as the Indus have quicksands. Beyond the Ghara, on the road to Mooltan, is a tract of sandy ground, in which the wells are deeper and some of the plants and other appearances of the great desert occur, from which in fact it seems to have been cut off by the Ghara. It extends at most but two or three days to right and left of the road travelled by the Embassy; and gradually melts into the more fertile country which surrounds it. It seems to rest on clay, and the soil of Mooltan has a great proportion of clay; many of the fields give evidence of salt, and in general the soil is inferior to that of Buhawulpoor.
96. In the further progress of the Embassy from Mooltan to the commencement of the hills beyond the Indus at Punecala, the basis of the country appears still to have been clay, though in some cases the uppermost stratum be sand. At three and a half miles from the left bank of the Chunab begins the Thul of Mohummud Khan already mentioned (see paragraph 29 ;) it is sand of a poor quality, but not uncultivatable. It is broadest to the north, and there too the wells are deepest. In this quarter is situated Munkeera, the chief fort of Mohummud Khan, which is thought to be secure less by the strength of its own works, than the barrenness of its neighbourhood, and the scarcity and badness of the water. In the route of the Embassy the wells were