Water crisis: India. A reportage by Michael F McElroy

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Photos by Michael F McElroy

India

About the autor:
Michael F McElroy (b. 1969 USA) is a photographer based in Miami, Florida. His work has been published in The New York Times, The Gaurdian, Revue, Monocle and Burn as well as other international magazines and newspapers. His work has been recognized by POYi, Communications Arts, Atlanta Photojournalism and the Society for News Design. He is currently working on a project documenting India’s water crisis. Michael is represented by Wonderful Machine and Zuma.

About the project:

India has 17 percent of the Worlds population and just 4 percent of its fresh water. The current water scenario is a matter of grave concern, as 85 per cent of water is used for agriculture, 10 per cent for industry and five per cent for domestic use.

With India’s population at 1.2 billion people and counting, plus internal economic migration to urban areas from the countryside, the country’s cities are bursting at the seams. Housing shortages, electricity and water cuts, traffic congestion, pollution and a lack of basic services are the reality for millions who live in the slums. I traveled to villages in rural areas where women walk for miles sometimes twice a day for water that is contaminated with high levels of fluoride and to the densely populated city’s of Dehli and Mumbai where millions of people have no access to running water and resort to stealing water form city water lines or if their lucky the leftovers from a water tanker.

I didn’t expect to see the level of scarcity for water, however, after being confronted with the reality of India’s water problems it was clear, water and its unavailability was a major concern for peoples daily existence.  Delhi’s Yumuna river has been heavily polluted with raw sewage and industrial waste turning this once clean river into a black bubbling mess,  57 million people depend on the Yumuna, the river supplies 70 percent of Delhi’s water. Thus consumers in Delhi ingest unknown amounts of toxic residues each time they drink the water.   Mumbais Mahalaxmi Dobi Ghat, the largest laundromat in the world, employs over 10,000 people, most of whom come from the nearby Dharavi slum, population one-plus million.  Hoses run into the cubicles constantly, and dirty brackish water is flushed out to the nearby sewers and the Arabian Sea a couple times a day contributing to the city’s infamous dirty and inconsistent supply of water.

It is clear that with their current infrastructure and water management polices, India’s water woe’s are only going to worsen. The water levels in the main reservoirs have not been filled after last years monsoon”s turned out to be the worst in 37years and current forecast of a normal monsoon season are just that “forecast”. In the rural farming areas wells are drying up and sources for water become less and less as monsoon levels drop from season to season. If India cant get ahold of this potential crisis and supply the needed water for cooking, bathing and drinking on a daily basis, the people will turn violent and get water at any means necessary for their survival. Unfortunately most Indians have been conditioned to thinking water is an abundant resource that will always be available and can be carelessly wasted.  The Central and State Governments need to make the people understand that water has become an increasingly precarious and expensive resource that everyone must conserve, otherwise this crisis can easily turn into a disaster.

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Water has become the most commercial product of the 21st century. The stress on the multiple water resources is a result of rising population and changing lifestyles. In the densely populated city’s in India, a pothole filled with water from a leaking pipe becomes the only source of water for some.

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About 57 million people depend on the Yumuna waters, the river accounts for more than 70 percent of Delhi’s water supplies despite being laden with the citys biological and chemical waste.

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For the women in India’s rural area’s getting a bucket of drinking water is a daily struggle in which most cases women walk an average of 2.5 kms to reach a source of water that is often contaminated with high levels of fluoride or is to saline to drink.

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A woman from Pandharkawda shares water from her well with other villagers. The State pays her $300 Rupees a day (about $200 dollars a month) to share her water. The small amount of money she gets from the Government isn’t enough to cover the cost of pumping the 12,000 liters a day.

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Water is the biggest crisis facing India in terms of spread and severity, affecting one in every three persons. Mangi villagers wait for a water tanker that arrives twice a weak to replenish there dryed up water well, the land here is ferociously dry, suffocating! and the trees have seemed to have sucked every last bit of water that they possibly could from the parched soil.

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The lack of basic services are the reality for millions who live in the slums, Mumbai’s water is somewhat infamous. It’s not clean, and its supply is inconsistent. Men in the Dharavi slum, population one-plus million takes baths in the early morning with water delivered from water tankers every 10 days if they are lucky.

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For the thousands of familys living on the sidewalks and roadways of Mumbai, everyday becomes a search for water. The Government considers these people illegal, thus it doesn’t provide them with any source of water or sanitation.

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Mahalaxmi Dobi Ghat, the largest laundromat in the world, employs over 10,000 people, most of whom come from the nearby Dharavi slum, population one-plus million. Hoses run into the cubicles constantly, and dirty brackish water is flushed out to sewers and the nearby Arabian Sea a couple times a day. Mumbai’s water is somewhat infamous. It’s not clean, and its supply is inconsistent.

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Residents of the Sewri slum show up daily at an illegally tapped water pipe that runs from 6:30am to 7:30 am to fill as many container of water as they can for there daily use. It is the residents only source of water since they dont have the money to have water trucks deliver.

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Farmers with no other alternative are forced to use the toxic waters of the Yumuna river to irrigate their crops. The river is there source of life and without it their crops would fail.

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