Seen in Pakistan: the beauty and grace of the Persian water wheel

By Alamgir Khan

A pair of oxen drive a Persian water wheel, a technology developed centuries ago. It was commonly used in Pakistan, mainly in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), for many years but has largely vanished from the landscape. [Alamgir Khan]

A farmer in Mohmand Agency drives two oxen to draw water for his crops. [Alamgir Khan]

Nowadays, tube wells mostly have replaced Persian wheels, but the wheels still exist in small numbers in Mohmand Agency and other tribal areas. [Alamgir Khan]

Two oxen move in a circle to keep the water system running. [Alamgir Khan]

With the passage of time, metal wheels supplanted wooden ones. [Alamgir Khan]

A chain of steel buckets used in the Persian wheel irrigation system to lift water. [Alamgir Khan]

A drive shaft connects the vertical cog to a larger wheel, over which a chain of buckets is draped. The bucket chain descends into a well, stream or other water source to fetch the water. [Alamgir Khan]

A child follows two oxen to keep the water running in the irrigation system. [Alamgir Khan]

GHALANAI, Mohmand Agency -- The Persian water wheel is a centuries-old system for raising water out of a well by using a series of wooden wheels, cogs and buckets powered by an ox moving around in a circle.

In modern times, most of these traditional irrigation systems have given way to tube wells, but Pakistan Forward found at least one farmer in Mohmand Agency still using the traditional system.

The system is comprised of two gear wheels: as the first wheel revolves, buckets attached to the second wheel dip into the well and fill with water. As the buckets rotate, the water pours into a metal shaft that in turn empties into an intricate network of troughs that distribute water through the farmer's cropland.

The following photographs, taken May 15, demonstrate how the Persian water wheel functions and highlights the beauty of this cultural treasure.


A farmer's son in Mohmand Agency uses a centuries-old system to irrigate the family's land May 15. [Alamagir Khan]

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