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Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 3, p. 363.

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which canal navigation cannot be maintained, even at great
expense, without the diversion and absorption of a large
volume of water which might be more advantageously used
for irrigation. The comparison of these advantages and dis-
advantages is, however, only of academical interest. The
commercial, the administrative, the military, and even the
agricultural needs of India could never have been met by
means of navigable canals alone; and the real question is not
of the comparative merits of canals and railways, but whether
in particular cases navigation canals may not suffice for im-
mediate requirements, or may not serve as useful supplements
to railway facilities already provided. Individual cases of this
kind must be considered on their merits, but it is noteworthy
that there is hardly a single tract in which navigable canals
have been made by Government in which a railway has not
been subsequently constructed. There may be now, or event-
ually, room for both, but the fact that the construction of a
railway causes a very serious diminution in the volume of
previous canal traffic indicates that the lower cost of haulage
on canals cannot in many cases be set against the other
advantages which may be claimed for railways. It may be
said that during the severest stress of recent famines railways
have sometimes failed for a time to cope fully with the
situation, but this has been generally due to the want of
a reserve of rolling stock, and navigation canals would be
equally liable to failure from insufficiency of cargo boats. It is,
indeed, difficult to conceive any practicable system of navigable
canals by which the exigencies of famine-distressed districts
could have been met as effectively as by the existing network
of railways. Lastly, it may be said that, whatever the com-
parative capital cost of navigable canals and railways may be,
the former have never proved directly remunerative, whereas
the latter yield on the whole a net revenue which is more
than sufficient to cover all the interest charges on their capital
cost. Much can, no doubt, still be done for the improvement
of communications in the deltas of Eastern Bengal and similar
areas by improving the open waterways of the country and
connecting them by navigable cuts, but outside these tracts the
field for the extension of inland navigation cannot be regarded
as either wide or promising.

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