Special Seminar Series on Human-Water Systems

Lessons For and From River Basins of the Muslim World
Dr Abubakr Muhammad
Thursday, 9 May 2024 - Thursday, 13 June 2024
Science Seminar Series

About the Series: This seminar series will explore the coevolution of water and society through time. By tracking advances in technology, adaptation to climate, and the pursuit of justice, time, power and wisdom in various thoughts, the series aims to foster interdisciplinary approaches to Human-Water Systems. Using examples from river systems around the world, it will illustrate the importance of understanding human behaviour towards sustainable water resource management. The series will use examples and case studies of river basins such as the Nile, Indus and Mesopotamia, which host Muslim societies. It will draw on published literature and the speaker’s own work that uses systems analysis, earth systems modelling, data science and engineering. 

The seminars will be given by Dr Abubakr Muhammad, Director, Centre for Water Informatics & Technology, LUMS, Pakistan, and STEMS Visiting Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. 

The following seminars will take place on the Thursdays listed below during Trinity Term 2024 at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Marston Road, at 5.15 pm.

9 May

Everything Flows 

This introductory lecture will highlight the philosophy that change is the only constant, stressing dynamic views of human-nature relations to avoid the pitfalls of short-term thinking. It will cover the complexities of water management and discuss how ignoring human behaviour in technology-driven solutions like irrigation and floodplain management can cause unintended consequences.

16 May

Institutions and Time

The lecture will explore the evolution of irrigation systems, highlighting their role in shaping political institutions from ancient despotisms to modern governance, using Karl Wittfogel, Karl Marx, and Elinor Ostrom's theories. It will focus on the Indus Basin's historical and geopolitical significance, discussing challenges in transboundary river management and the development of participatory, resilient institutions for future climate-stressed environments.

23 May

Technology and Power

The lecture will explore the relationship between science, technology, and water governance, examining how technological advancements historically empowered colonial and imperial dominance, and use examples from the Indus Basin and Dutch interventions in Indonesia. It will discuss the impact of modern innovations like AI and precision agriculture on society and environmental stewardship.

6 June

Climate and Justice

The lecture will address the impact of climate change on river basins, focusing on the Indus basin’s severe floods, droughts, and reduced river flows from shrinking glaciers. It will explore demand management, technological adaptation, and water justice from an Islamic perspective, discussing equity and responsibility in global climate change scenarios.

13 June

Water and Wisdom

The interplay between water, society, and technology will be revisited, emphasizing the critical role of wisdom in navigating the future of human-water systems and enduring relationships with nature. The paradoxes of growth limits, counterproductive fixes, and the pitfalls of well-intentioned but misguided interventions will be discussed towards developing pragmatic frameworks that address water system challenges.



Please register here if you wish to join one or more of these seminars.