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IDS Bulletin Vol. 32 Nos. 4

Implications of Legal Pluralism for Natural Resource Management

Published on 1 October 2001

Summaries This article illustrates the implications of legal pluralism for our understanding of natural resource management and policies toward resource tenure, using the example of water rights. There is widespread recognition that property rights play a fundamental role in shaping how people manage natural resources. But many conceptions of property rights have focused only on static definitions, usually as defined in statutory law. The legal anthropological perspective highlights the coexistence and interaction between multiple legal orders such as state, customary, religious, project and local laws, all of which provide bases for claiming property rights. These multiple legal frameworks also facilitate considerable flexibility for people to manoeuvre in their use of natural resources, thus helping to cope with uncertainty. In many parts of the world, water rights are dynamic, flexible and subject to frequent negotiations because of uncertain water supply, damages to intake structures due to floods and landslides, and social, economic and political changes. The article demonstrates how multiple, flexible and dynamic legal orders are more responsive to these uncertainties and changes than a single, fixed legal system with a static property regime

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Meinzen?Dick, R., S. and Pradhan, R. (2001) Implications of Legal Pluralism for Natural Resource Management. IDS Bulletin 32(4): 10-17

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published by
Institute of Development Studies

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