Using Photography to Highlight Water Issues

Notes on the situation in Bangladesh, from the winner of the WIN photo competition 2011

In the winning photograph of mine, I have focused on the value of precious water, as well as the dangers that badly managed water in urbanized settings can expose the people to.

In Bangladesh, both the urban and rural areas face more or less the same kind of development challenge. In city areas drinking water crisis or scarcity is common, while in the remote rural areas of the country problems like presence of arsenic and other harmful chemicals, lack of potable water etc are prevalent. Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is one of the most densely populated cities of the South-Asian countries.

Due to rapid urbanization process, the Dhaka city is emerging as a mega-city and this trend generates numerous economic and social externalities and social cost such as deterioration of environmental quality, increased pollution and congestion. Dhaka city is beset with a number of socio-environmental problems, ‘water crisis’ a crucial one among them. Slums of the Dhaka city are largely prone to the water crisis. It also underlines the problems of corruption in the urban water supply and the unplanned and unmanageable development of the city. With a population of 20 million (unofficial, but more accurate estimate), Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh is struggling for water, especially in the slum areas of the city that are home to the most impoverished and vulnerable populations.

Around 2,100 people, mostly climate refugees, migrate to the dream city of Dhaka everyday in search of better livelihood and finally add to the slum population that is 30 to 50 percent of the total population of Dhaka. The situation is getting more and more complicated with time due to the ever increasing numbers of the new migrants who arrive daily in slums. Thus, the water crisis resulting from the constant expansion and development is an immense threat to the safety and quality of life of the slum dwellers.

In this particular photograph, I tried to portray the true picture of the scarcity of potable water in slums. In slums, people have to stand in queues from early morning hours to get the daily supply of free drinking water from the government water tankers. As they have no idea exactly when the government tanker will come, they line up their water jars & sit beside them for hours waiting for the water tankers.

Even after passing the long queue, the water that they receive is not of purest quality. Rather this impure water causes sickness. Still the poor people feel that they are fortunate not to have to leave with empty pots. This is the plight of the slum dwellers in the Bangladesh capital city of Dhaka.

In my winning photo of WIN competition, I wanted to convey the ultimate state of heart wrenching vulnerability and helplessness of the poor little child, who is fighting along with a pigeon for few drops of water.

Akash is the winner of the WIN Photo competition in 2011. His winning photo (above) was exhibited in Stockholm during the World Water Week 2011, which Akash was invited to attend. Akash’s journey to the world of photography began long ago. Through his lens, Akash has told countless poignant tales of the socially isolated groups, which has undoubtedly made him one of the most acclaimed photographers from Bangladesh. He has received more than 40 international awards from all around the world and his work has been featured in over 50 major international publications including: National Geographic, Vogue, Time, Sunday Times, Newsweek, Geo, Stern,Der Spiegel, The Fader,Brand Ein, The Guardian, Marie Claire, Colors, The Economist, The New Internationalist, Kontinente, Amnesty Journal, Courier International, PDN, Die Zeit, Days Japan, Hello, and Sunday Telegraph of London. More information can be found on his website and blog.

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