Erum Khalid Sattar received her Doctorate in Juridical Sciences (S.J.D.) from Harvard Law School (HLS) in 2017. Her research focuses on issues of water federalism and trans-boundary water sharing in the Indus River Basin. Prior to Harvard, she qualified to become a Barrister-at-Law from The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn. She co-founded the Water Law Study Group at HLS and teaches water law and policy and environmental law at Pace University School of Law, Northeastern University School of Law, and Tufts University. She will be a Visiting Professor at NUS School of Law in 2019-20 where she will teach the school’s first-ever course on water law, ‘Water Rights and Resources’.
Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School
‘Fixed’ vs. ‘Dynamic’ property in water: a comparison of 19th century British colonial law in the Indus Basin and post-colonial development of water law in 18th and 19th century America
"The paper contributes to comparative water law and policy scholarship with a focus on the Indus River Basin in modern-day Pakistan and the control of water for development in newly-independent America. Both Pakistan and America started out with an endowment of British colonial law that led them down different pathways. I explore the continuing effects in Pakistan of a rigid legal regime for the control of water that the British colonial rulers of then united India put in place in the 19th century in the Indus Basin. By contrast, in newly-independent 18th and 19th century America, the legal system through the reconceptualization of property and tort law categories built a dynamic system of water rights that responded to society’s changing needs and understandings to see water as a ‘resource’. After defeating the British, American society dynamically began to instrumentally manipulate legal concepts whereas post-1947 Pakistan after independence did not manage to undertake a process of organic legal reform. I argue that rigidity put in place through a colonial legal regime continues to structure Pakistan’s political economy and economic development. Drawing a legal historical comparison with a newly-independent America which unleashed society’s potential and its use and manipulation of the law to protect newer forms of property can provide illustrative examples for a potential process of legal reform for an Asian country with a history and endowment of British colonial law."