1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Karachi

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KARACHI, or Kurrachee, a seaport and district of British India, in the Sind province of Bombay. The city is situated at the extreme western end of the Indus delta, 500 m. by sea from Bombay and 820 m. by rail from Lahore, being the maritime terminus of the North-Western railway, and the main gateway for the trade of the Punjab and part of central Asia. It is also the capital of the province of Sind. Pop. (1881), 73,500; (1891), 105,199; (1901), 115,407. Before 1725 no town appears to have existed here; but about that time some little trade began to centre upon the convenient harbour, and the silting up of Shahbandar, the ancient port of Sind, shortly afterwards drove much of its former trade and population to the rising village. Under the Kalhora princes, the khan of Kalat obtained a grant of the town, but in 1795 it was captured by the Talpur Mirs, who built the fort at Manora, at the entrance to the harbour. They also made considerable efforts to increase the trade of the port and at the time of the British acquisition of the province the town and suburbs contained a population of 14,000. This was in 1843, from which time the importance of the place practically dates.

The harbour of Karachi has an extreme length and breadth of about 5 m. It is protected by the promontory of Manora Head; and the entrance is partially closed by rocks and by the peninsula (formerly an island) of Kiamari. On Manora Head, which is fortified, are the buildings of the port establishment, a cantonment, &c. Kiamari is the landing-place for passengers and goods, and has three piers and railway connexions. The harbour improvements were begun in 1854 with the building of the Napier Mole or causeway connecting Kiamari with the mainland. The entrance has a minimum depth of 25 ft.; and a large number of improvements and extensions have been carried out by the harbour board, which was created in 1880, and transformed in 1886 into the port trust.

The great extension of the canal colonies in the Punjab, entirely devoted to the cultivation of wheat, has immensely increased the export trade of Karachi. It now ranks as the third port of India, being surpassed only by Calcutta and Bombay. The principal articles of export, besides wheat, are oilseeds, cotton, wool, hides and bones. The annual value of exports, including specie, amounts to about nine millions sterling. There are iron works and manufactures of cotton cloth, silk scarves and carpets. The fisheries and oyster beds are important.

Among the principal public buildings are government house, the Frere municipal hall, and the Napier barracks. The military cantonments, stretching north-east of the city, form the headquarters of a brigade in the 4th division of the southern army. An excellent water supply is provided by an underground aqueduct 18 m. in length. The chief educational institutions are the Dayaram Jethmal Arts College, with a law class; five high schools, of which two are for Europeans and one for Mahommedans; a convent school for girls; and an engineering class. The average rainfall for the year is about 5 in. The rainy months are July and August, but one or two heavy showers usually fall about Christmas. The end of May, beginning of June, and first fortnight in October are hot. November, December, January, February and March are delightfully cool and dry; the remaining months are damp with a constant cool sea breeze.

The District of Karachi has an area of 11,970 sq. m. Pop. (1901), 607,439, showing an increase of 6% in the decade. It consists of an immense tract of land stretching from the mouth of the Indus to the Baluch boundary. It differs in general appearance from the rest of Sind, having a rugged, mountainous region along its western border. The country gradually slopes away to the south-east, till in the extreme south the Indus delta presents a broad expanse of low, flat and unpicturesque alluvium. Besides the Indus and its mouths, the only river in the district is the Hab, forming the boundary between Sind and Baluchistan. The Manchhar lake in Sehwan sub-division forms the only considerable sheet of water in Sind. The hot springs at Pir Mangho are 6 m. N. of Karachi town. The principal crops are rice, millets, oil-seeds and wheat. In addition to Karachi, there are seaports at Sirgonda and Keti Bandar, which conduct a considerable coasting trade. Tatta was the old capital of Sind. Kotri is an important railway station on the Indus. The main line of the North-Western railway runs through the district. From Kotri downwards the line has been doubled to Karachi, and at Kotri a bridge has been constructed across the Indus opposite Hyderabad, to connect with the Rajputana railway system.

See A. F. Baillie, Kurrachee: Past, Present and Future (1890).