Sukkur's Lloyd Barrage Museum: A Space For Alternative Education

Sukkur's Lloyd Barrage Museum: A Space For Alternative Education
Museum environments offer a lot to fiction and non-fiction writers. Undoubtedly, these places are depositories of secrets, windows into various eras and showcases of human efforts. A single piece of pottery or a scrap of fabric, or even a broken artifact, holds a story. Currently, there are a considerable number of novels set in or around museums. One of them is David M. Barnett’s The Handover, which depicts the fictional Manchester Museum of Social History, where readers are immersed in two worlds: the past and the future. Similarly, visitors to the Lloyd Barrage Museum, on quite different wavelengths, also witness two distinguished faces of Sindh: pre-Barrage and post-Barrage Sindh.

Before exploring the museum, it is appropriate to disclose its location: it is situated at Arore Nara Canal, Reduced Distance 34, RCW Rohri, Sukkur, Sindh. Long ago, perhaps in 2011, I visited the museum and to my disappointment, what I saw couldn’t be called a museum. This is because before me, instead of the museum, stood a residential room. Apart from it, some old items used in the construction of the barrage were lying in the bushes. Sadly, the building's sign showed “Lloyd Barrage Museum, Sukkur,” but in reality, it was merely a dark and abandoned space – or we may say an unused multi-purpose store. Fortunately, Mr Nazeer Ahmed Ujjan and Wali Muhammad Bozdar of the Goth Seengar Foundation (GSF) – a Sukkur-based NGO – conceived the idea of its rehabilitation. With the financial assistance of ENI Pakistan and its joint venture partners, the rehabilitation work began in 2012 and was completed in 2014.

I asked Nazir Ujjan to share with me the story of the museum’s rehabilitation. He informed me that like other NGOs, their organisation was also interested in becoming partners in ENI's development program. However, one condition was that the submitted project should be innovative and have a long-term societal impact. Taking on this challenge, the GSF proposed the rehabilitation of the Lloyd Barrage Museum. Luckily, they passed the scrutiny phase and were selected in the final round. Nazeer Ujjan expressed his gratitude to Paolo Giraudi and Giorgio Guidi, who recognised the importance of their vision.

The Lloyd Barrage and its Museum at night (Image Credit - Sohail Memon)

During our conversation, Wali Muhammad Bozdar (GSF) mentioned that after winning the project, an equally important challenge was legally acquiring the museum’s building. However, the civil administration of Sukkur and Khairpur Mirs assisted them in getting the building. Once in possession, they found that the building was a total mess. Furniture was broken, walls were scratched, colours were faded and everywhere there was graffiti, politico-religious posters, wall-chalking, and books dumped into worn-out plastic bags and bags were spread over the floor. Therefore, their immediate task was to fumigate the building, install new electric wiring and renovate the furniture. Nazir Ujjan also added that discarded machinery and other items related to the construction period of the barrage were placed in the museum room.
In the middle of this month, I visited the museum and found four main sections: a model room, a full-sized photo gallery, a library and a collection of tools and materials

The conversation with the leaders of GSF triggered a question in my mind: was the museum, from its inception, considered to meet the required standards of a museum?

Generally, the required standards for museums involve the collection, preservation, interpretation and display of artifacts of artistic, cultural or scientific importance for the awareness and education of the public. To judge it, I realised that the only way was to visit and see for myself as to how it was organised and what it offered to the public.

In the middle of this month, I visited the museum and found four main sections: a model room, a full-sized photo gallery, a library and a collection of tools and materials. The model room offered detailed information about the barrage. It helped visitors to learn about the barrage’s construction phases, water storage and regulating mechanism. Some basic models placed in the room were a cross-section model of the Nara canal, a cross-section model of the barrage, a special repairs model and a complete model of the Lloyd Barrage operation. These models showcased the history of the Lloyd Barrage's construction and its various headworks and canals. Another important section of the museum was the photo gallery, which presented a step-by-step construction of the barrage and featured photos of individuals who played important roles in its construction. It included photos of CA Fife, who conceptualised the Sukkur Barrage in 1868, Sir Charlton Harrison, the project's chief engineer and Sir Arnold Musto, the project’s architect and engineer. This section also presented various drawings, diagrams, tables and photos of the various construction stages of the barrage.

Left: The photo gallery; Right: A portion of the library

However, for scholars and researchers, the museum’s library is also significant: it contains selected titles such as books, reports, research journals and various reports from British Sindh that pertain to waterworks, hydrology, civil works, the steel industry and mechanical engineering. The books are cataloged, easily accessed and retrieved through computerised applications. Additionally, the museum also displays mechanical tools used during the construction of the barrage, including a small road roller, a lathe machine and a mixture machine. Notably, the portable mixture machine was used by engineers and workers according to their needs during construction. Another fascinating item was an old typewriter, a British model, frequently used in the documentation and paperwork of the Sukkur Barrage. The museum also exhibited samples of materials used in the construction of the barrage, such as limestone, fine slit, cement, gravel, crushed stone and coarsest slit.

The Barrage Museum provides a historical and informative view of the construction and operation of the Lloyd Barrage System. After my visit, I can confidently say that the construction of the museum reflects the British government’s intention to preserve the memories related to the Sukkur Barrage's construction, as proved by the organisation as well as displayed material.

Initially, I had thought that my visit and description of the museum would be the ending part of my write-up. However, the well-organised museum compelled me to change my plan and conclude with the notes from my departure meeting with the leaders of the GSF.

Wali Muhammad Bozdar and Nazir Ujjan - founders of Goth Seengar Foundation (GSF) Sukkur

To get to know their future plans, I met with Nazir and Wali Muhammad in Sukkur city. They explained that the revival of the museum was the first step, and it was to be followed by forming partnerships with higher educational institutes based in Sukkur and Khairpur Mirs. They mentioned that the museum’s library could serve as an untapped source of material, as it contained reports that shed light on pre-barrage Sindh's anthropology, sociology, culture, agriculture and irrigation. My attentive listening encouraged them, and they further expressed their belief that a museum movement should be initiated in Sindh. They proposed establishing a grand museum related to the Indus River at Al-Manzir, Jamshoro. In their view, it would benefit the general public as well as students from Sindh University, Mehran University of Engineering and Technology and Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences. They suggested that the proposed museum should have broader contours, depicting life around the Indus River. As far as they are concerned, the Lloyd Barrage Museum could be considered a model and similar spaces could be established where huge engineering works exist.

I thanked them and sought their permission to leave. But I could not stop thinking about their new ideas and wondered as to how they conceive them. Perhaps, to them, development is not merely project management or a balance sheet of an organisation – it is patriotism and the realisation of people’s dreams.

Dr. Zaffar Junejo has a Ph.D in History from the University of Malaya. His areas of interest are post-colonial history, social history and peasants’ history. He may be reached at