Water as Power: American Experts, Infrastructure Finance and the Spread of Private Property

20 Pages Posted: 12 May 2018

Date Written: March 10, 2018


This paper argues that the concept of water as a ‘resource’ enables an understanding of the spread of American technocratic expertise as deployed in the Indus basin. This development knowledge at the start of the post-colonial moment replaced the vacating empire of the Raj, with the emergence of Pakistan and India in 1947. The newly-minted World Bank, seeking credibility, became the vehicle for a large-scale, infrastructure-heavy, technocratic vision of water management and the development of dams in Pakistan, financed with international development assistance. Tying new nations to itself during the Cold War was critical to America and its development model focused on strengthening and expanding the reach of agricultural commodity markets in the largest contiguous irrigation network in the world – a system, that with the drawing of the boundary line, had been ripped asunder by the Partition award of a British civil servant. The Partition line that created the new states cut the irrigation canals from the precious source of their river waters. Into this calamity, America stepped in – to teach the new country what it knew from its development of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the marvel of the Imperial Valley of California. This work continues to the present with the Asian Development Bank becoming an additional conduit of international technical expertise and development finance. Using a critical natural resource enables us to understand the nature and pathways of the structural transformation taking place leading to an ever-expanding concept of the market and private property rights toward integration in global markets.

Suggested Citation

Sattar, Erum, Water as Power: American Experts, Infrastructure Finance and the Spread of Private Property (March 10, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3171104 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3171104

Erum Sattar (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States
6179533638 (Phone)
6179533638 (Fax)

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