Since 2011, American photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz has travelled to eight countries for his long-term photographic project on increasing water scarcity.
Abdulaziz’s project aims to highlight the effects of urbanisation, poor sanitation, pollution and water scarcity.
“Our most critical resource for life on this planet hangs in a delicate balance - between growing populations and energy demands, between rising seas and melting ice and between those who have access to clean water and those who do not,” says the photographer.
“Photographs have the capacity to bring into focus our place in the world, where this imbalance between water and civilisation may be explored in the hope we may look upon ourselves and our world not as separate entities but as one whose future is intrinsically linked,” says Abdulaziz.
Water Stories, his first UK solo exhibition, will include nearly 70 large-scale photographs and previously unexhibited images from Brazil and Nigeria. The open-air exhibition will open on 22 March 2016 to mark UN World Water Day in collaboration with the HSBC Water Programme, a partnership between HSBC, Earthwatch, WaterAid and WWF.
*Top Photograph: Sahib Lashari, Thatta, Pakistan A family without a toilet or water facilities cares for four-month-old Shahbaz, who is suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting. In Pakistan, more than 40,000 children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and a lack of basic hygiene and toilets. Worldwide, diarrhoea is the second biggest killer of children under five years old.
Children journey to collect water, Sindh Province, Pakistan, 2013
Bewatoo, Pakistan: Women pull water from a well in the Thar desert, where temperatures hover between 48°C and 50°C on summer days. With an extremely low water table and continuing drought, sometimes water must be hauled from depths of 200ft. ‘Women fall unconscious on their way to these dug wells,’ says Marvi Bheel, a resident of Bewatoo. The journey can take up to three hours.
Drought conditions, Cantareira Reservoir, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2015
Shrimp fishing, Lake Hong, Hubei Province, China, 2015
Three Gorges dam, China Hydropower projects have had a huge impacts on the Yangtze river. The Three Gorges dam, which stands 185m high and 3,035m wide, was designed to control floods, generate power and aid navigation, but has upset the natural flow of the river. Work is ongoing with the operators of the dam to ensure enough water is being released at key moments, thereby restoring the natural pulse of the river and supporting the needs of wildlife downstream.
The Yangtze basin supports 450 million people and stretches 6,300 kilometres from high in the Tibetan plateau to the East China Sea at Shanghai.
Women and children collect drinking water from a well in Osukputu, Benue, Nigeria. According to WaterAid, 57 million people in Nigeria do not have access to safe water.
WaterAid also state that more than 770 million people do not have access to adequate sanitation in India.
A worker clears a filter at a sewage plant. As part of the government’s Last Mile Projects initiative to clean up the Ganges, all major cities in Uttar Pradesh will receive new sewage treatment plants. It is estimated that the results will not be visible for another two years. In India more than 140,000 children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation.
Rakhi Mandi slum, Kanpur, India, 2014
Talib Lashari, Pakistan: Fishermen prepare their nets in anticipation of the tide and their turn to take one of the shared boats out to sea, searching further and further from the coast to catch fish.
Benue river, Nigeria During the Harmattan (a relatively cold season characterised by dry winds and clouds of dust) the Benue river, a major tributary of the Niger river, becomes almost completely dry.
Rakhi Mandi slum, Kanpur, India Raju, 45, lost his daughter to an illness doctors attributed to drinking unsafe water. ‘She fell ill during the night and I took her to the doctor in the morning but she died,’ he says. ‘With access to clean water and sanitation we will be able to move a little bit ahead in life.’ More than 140,000 children die every year from diarrhoea in India, often caused by a lack of clean water for proper handwashing. A lack of toilets further exacerbates the problem, as faeces on the ground contributes to the contamination of water resources and spreads disease.
In pursuit of high outputs and economic benefits, aquafarming in China has increased rapidly over the past few decades. This has resulted in a number of environmental and food security problems.
Ponte Baixa stream, São Paulo, Brazil: As the amount of available water declines, understanding the human impact on water quality becomes ever more important. Lack of infrastructure and poor domestic wastewater treatment is common in urban areas in Brazil, which makes São Paulo’s water resources a risk for both ecological balance and human health. Historically, this risk has not been addressed by local people.
Carandiru river, São Paulo, Brazil: FreshWater Watch trains people to become citizen scientists, testing local waters for contaminants such as nitrates and phosphates. The presence of these pollutants has increased significantly over the last 100 years and can lead to oxygen depletion, fish deaths, and an overall decline in biodiversity. FreshWater watcher Thais Azevedo says: ‘In São Paulo, people have lost their connection to the rivers and streams. A long time ago, they were a place where people wanted to be. Nowadays, people feel ashamed of the river and avoid these polluted places.’
Leather tannery fields, Kanpur, India: The acids, dyes, chromium compounds and salts used to treat animal hides are so toxic that in 2013 the government temporarily closed the Kanpur’s 400 tanneries. For years, chemical wastewater has passed into run-off streams, which meet with other open water sources before flowing into the River Ganges. Government regulation now requires all tanneries to be fitted with chrome recovery plants to remove the most toxic of pollutants from the wastewater, but there is no research on how effective this approach is.
Kroo Bay, Freetown, Sierra Leone, 2012.
All of this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Besides just the basic issue of thirst there is the threat of disease to individuals and communities, but also to the world at large when an outbreak eventually manifests in a poor but densely populated region. There are already food shortages occurring worldwide as a result of drought and ever increasing pollution that both hinder the growing of crops and the ability of wildlife to propogate and flourish. All of these factors and more impact each other and then intensify their effects in a world with an ever increasing population and inversely decreasing resources.
This is an issue that gets little to no coverage in the US unless something like Flint, Michigan occurs. But again, Flint is just a fraction of a percent of the problems concerning the availability of clean, drinkable and usable water just in America, let alone the global community.