Cambridge exhibition focuses on water crisis in Himalayas
The challenges facing water systems in the Himalayas and the need for ecologically wise decision-making is the focus of a major exhibition attracting many visitors at the University of Cambridge as part of its India Unboxed programme and the Festival of Ideas.
Titled “Pani, Pahar: Waters of the Himalayas”, the photographic exhibition is based on a study led by Bhaskar Vira, professor in the department of geography, looking at mostly neglected locally appropriate ways of capturing and storing water in the context of mega projects.
The study is based on research in six towns - Palampur and Rajgarh in Himachal Pradesh, Mussoorie and Nainital in Uttarakhand and in Dhulikhel and Bidur in Nepal. The exhibition began on Tuesday and ends on October 28.
Vira told Hindustan Times: “The waters of the Himalayas sustain the lives of over half a billion people, and we cannot afford to ignore the pressures on these beautiful, but ecologically fragile landscapes.
“As more people move to small towns in the mountains, the needs of infrastructure and planning require us to work with nature, rather than trying to tame it through risky mega projects.
“Investing in locally appropriate ways to capture and store water, and helping the regeneration of natural springs and other sources, is critically important for future water security. This exhibition highlights the aesthetic beauty of these mountain regions, but also how critical it is to pay attention to our sources of water and how they are governed, to ensure that they can sustain lives and livelihoods into the 21st century.”
The exhibition presents four themes visible across the six towns - change and transformation around water sources, the growing visibility and rapid pace of urbanisation, the ebbs, flows and characteristics of seasonality that affect both social and ecological systems and the ways in which physical, social and political infrastructures are being built, transformed and consolidated in this time of rapid change.
The exhibition combines research led by Vira and Eszter Kovacs at the department of geography (with collaborators in India and Nepal) with contemporary imagery by photojournalist Toby Smith and curated archival prints from the University Library and the Centre for South Asian Studies.