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Blood and Water

Blood and Water: The Indus River Basin in Modern History

David Gilmartin
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Blood and Water
    Book Description:

    The Indus basin was once an arid pastoral watershed, but by the second half of the twentieth century, it had become one of the world’s most heavily irrigated and populated river basins. Launched under British colonial rule in the nineteenth century, this irrigation project spurred political, social, and environmental transformations that continued after the 1947 creation of the new states of India and Pakistan. In this first large-scale environmental history of the region, David Gilmartin focuses on the changes that occurred in the basin as a result of the implementation of the world’s largest modern integrated irrigation system. This masterful work of scholarship explores how environmental transformation is tied to the creation of communities and nations, focusing on the intersection of politics, statecraft, and the environment.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-96083-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Maps
    (pp. xi-xx)
  5. 1 Introduction: Community and Environment
    (pp. 1-26)

    Changes in structures for controlling water transformed the Indus basin in the century and a half from 1850 to 2000. A largely arid region with a historical mix of varying forms of agricultural and pastoral production, the Indus basin became, by the second half of the twentieth century, one of the globe’s most heavily irrigated river basins. At the time of the British departure in 1947, there were some twenty-six million acres of irrigated land within the Indus basin, which encompassed by then the largest integrated, state-controlled irrigation system in the world—and one that had made the region one...

  6. 2 Irrigation and the Baloch Frontier
    (pp. 27-68)

    The history of the Raj’s northwest, trans-Indus frontier has oft en been told in terms of the turbulent history of the “great game” in Britain’s imperial history. But water’s long-term centrality to political control was evident all along India’s north-western frontier.² Control of water was to prove central to British imperial state making in the region, as it had been to earlier states as well. But it also came to be intimately related to the larger intellectual processes through which the British sought to define the foundations and meanings of their empire in its relationship both to the environments and...

  7. 3 Community on the Waste: The Village and the Colonial Property Order
    (pp. 69-103)

    No less than on the trans-Indus frontier, canal building and water control played an important role in the establishment of British imperial rule in central Punjab. “What the soldier begins the irrigation engineer continues,” wrote Alfred Deakin in describing the beginnings of imperial irrigation in the region.³ Even as the British moved into the Punjab, engineers such as Sir Proby Cautley, who launched the construction of the Ganges canal in the 1840s, had already demonstrated the potential efficacy of large-scale canal building in northern India. The first major government canal project undertaken after the British annexation of the Punjab in...

  8. 4 Statute and Custom in Water Law
    (pp. 104-143)

    The power of water development—and particularly canal building—to transform the Indus basin environment was well-recognized by many British officials in the second half of the nineteenth century. Projects for water development went hand in hand with British commitments to fix productive property owners on the land. In undertaking state projects of water development, the state took on the role of a “public” patron of productivity, building canals to supply water to individual producers as they encouraged increasing agricultural settlement.

    Yet emerging tensions in water management also highlighted the complicated role that the patronage of local communities, linked to...

  9. 5 Science, the State, and the Environment
    (pp. 144-181)

    The appeal to science as a frame for both environmental transformation and new claims to state power was, in the last decades of the nineteenth century, not new. But in the years from 1860 to 1890, it was not science but law that was the major obsession of British administration in the Indus basin as the British sought to bring order to India and morally legitimize the power of the British state. As we saw in chapter 4, rationalizing legal statutes (such as the 1873 Canal Act) provided the major levers through which the colonial state defined itself as a...

  10. 6 The River Basin and Partition
    (pp. 182-219)

    The period following 1920 was one of rapid environmental and political change in the Indus basin. The next thirty years brought the development of electoral politics, economic upheaval during the great depression, nationalist challenges to British rule, and the end of the colonial regime in 1947. Perhaps most dramatically, it also brought the partition of India into two separate states, India and Pakistan, which split the Indus basin, and its structures of water control, in two. Many of these changes were rooted in historical pressures originating in distant areas. Yet the political and environmental legacies of Indus basin water development...

  11. 7 The Indus Waters Treaty and Its Afterlives
    (pp. 220-252)

    The Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 (which was modeled on the World Bank’s 1954 plan) has oft en been hailed as one of the great success stories of international water disputes. As Syed S. Kirmani put it in 1990, “The Indus Waters Treaty is one of the most remarkable examples of a treaty that led to successful management of conflicts between sovereign riparian countries of a large river basin and served to promote development and prosperity in both countries.”¹ The treaty continued to function in the face of several wars between India and Pakistan, and it led to an explosion...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 253-320)
    (pp. 321-338)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 339-356)