Embracing the Study of Paradoxes in Hydropower Dams

Law’s regulation of transboundary hydropower dams is a field of study brimming with paradoxes. The most notable are the paradox of a hydropower dam solving one problem and creating another; for example, when upstream water storage leads to potential downstream environmental degradation. From a logical perspective, such a paradox would typically be viewed negatively. But from a social perspective, paradoxes can draw attention to the frames of common-sense and thus enlighten and transform planning systems.

This paper proposes that through a sociological understanding of paradoxes one can adequately work out the recurring conditions under which law might productively make use of paradoxes.

To do so, the paper proposes two methodological tools: First, to expose the paradox so as to make more visible some of the unthought limitations, self-deceptions, and self-contradictions that arise in modern planning practices. Second, to build upon the paradox so as to open up headways towards an adequate conceptualisation of the solutions that the law can offer.

Although these methodological tools cannot offer practical technical guidance, they can, nevertheless, bring to light the re-occurring patterns under which the appearance of legal problems also initiates processes for legal solutions and how this, in turn, produces consequent problem and solutions. Thus, the analysis acquires a kind of dynamism by enabling one to rediscover and reconstruct law in circumstances in which it might seem to have disappeared, and this is useful for improving the way we observe and describe law’s regulation of hydropower dams.

This summary is based on the research paper Making Use of Paradoxes: Law, Transboundary Hydropower Dams and Beyond the Technical



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