Page:England & Russia in Central Asia,Vol-I.djvu/73

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strictly accurate. By comparison we shall best be able to test the question of expense. The alternative scheme which Herr Kiepert advocates is a railway across the desert from Krasnovodsk to Khiva, for which the cost even for a single line would certainly be four million pounds; and when we add the cost of wear and tear, the deficit in receipts as compared with expenditure, the capitalised amount necessary for the undertaking would probably amount to five or six millions sterling. For a third of this amount it is asserted that the Oxus could be diverted from its present course to one disemboguing in the Caspian. The time asked for the scheme would not be longer than that which would be required for the construction of a line of railway. Both as a matter of labour, expense, and time, the scheme with regard to the Oxus has the advantage over that for the construction of a railway. Of course that does not make the former feasible.

The preliminary steps have already been discussed. It is now necessary to consider how the crowning operation is to be carried out. The fundamental principle of this scheme is that no premature experiment should be made in effecting any modification in the existing course of the Oxus. The river should in no way be tampered with while the Doudon and Uzboi were being prepared for it. And regarding the question from this intelligent point of view, the rupture of the dam at Bend is a disaster and not a benefit. The absurd ejaculations on the part of the Russian press when news first came of the re-flooding of the petty Loudon canal — from the tone of which nothing less would be inferred