Water Stories: the global water crisis in pictures

Stunning photography by Mustafah Abdulaziz brings to life vital work supported by the HSBC Water Programme in Pakistan, India and China.


11 Aug 2015

An exhibition by award-winning photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz highlighting the global water crisis launches today in Strandvägen, Stockholm.

Water Stories is part of Mustafah’s multiyear project "Water", and is in collaboration with WaterAid, WWF and Earthwatch.

Surrounded by water in central Stockholm, the outdoor exhibition coincides with the city’s Culture Festival, 11- 16 August, and the 25th anniversary of World Water Week, 23 - 28 August, organised by Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

Over the course of two years, Mustafah captured the effects of urbanization, poor sanitation and pollution in India, water scarcity and contamination in Pakistan, and expanding industry and population in China.

Life without safe water

Mustafah visited Kanpur in India with WaterAid in December 2014. The city’s population has grown rapidly over the past ten years, driven by economic opportunity, and 1.8 million people – half of Kanpur’s population – don’t have access to a toilet.

Rakhi Mandi slum, Kanpur, India, 2014.
Rakhi Mandi slum, Kanpur, India. 

For people here, particularly young children, lack of safe water and toilets can be life-threatening. More than 186,000 children under five die every year in India from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation.

Raju, 45, works as a laundry man, cleaning and ironing clothes for a living. He lost his daughter to an illness that doctors attributed to drinking contaminated water.

“My daughter’s name was Naina. She was two years old and had just started walking. She had fallen ill during the night and I took her to the doctor in the morning but, finally, she died.”

Empowering women

The exhibition shows how access to safe water and sanitation services empower people to take their first steps out of poverty and offer hope for the future. Kalavati, an inspiring 50-year-old female mason, is on a mission to build toilets.

Kalavati, Rakhi Mandi slum, Kanpur, India, 2014.
Kalavati, 50, has made it her mission to build toilets in Rakhi Mandi slum.

She says, “The first time a toilet was constructed in my community I felt that no other work can be more meaningful than this.”

Kalavati was so inspired that she trained to become a sanitation mason with the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Shramik Bharti, WaterAid’s local partner. Now she has helped to build more than 2,000 toilets across the city and says she will not leave Rakhi Mandi until a toilet is constructed in every household.

A long way to water

Also featured in the exhibition is a selection of images from Pakistan, where Mustafah visited with WaterAid in September 2013.

In Pakistan’s desert areas, temperatures hover at 48-50°C on summer days. With an extremely low water table and continuing drought, sometimes water must be hauled from a depth of 150-200 feet.

“Women fall unconscious on their way to these dug wells,” said Marvi Bheel, 45, a resident of Bewatoo, Tharparkar.

Women work together to pull water from deep inside a 130 foot well. Tharparkar, Paksitan.
Women work together to pull water from deep inside a 130-foot well. Tharparkar, Paksitan.

The unending pursuit for water is a heavy toll on women worldwide. From the water-scarce regions in southern Ethiopia to the desert wells of Pakistan, it is women who are primarily responsible for gathering water.

Ending the water crisis

Mustafah Abdulaziz said, “Water is one of the great challenges of our time. Across the planet we are seeing our fundamental relationship with water called into question.

“The aim of this project is to use photography as a pathway to understanding. Photographs have the capacity to bring into focus our place in the world. Each story I document seeks to highlight this and I am honoured to work alongside NGOs who care passionately about finding answers to the question of water."

Barbara Frost, Chief Executive of WaterAid, said, “It is a privilege for WaterAid to work with Mustafah Abdulaziz, a photographer who is incredibly committed to drawing attention to global water issues. One in ten people still live without access to clean water and one in three people remain without access to basic sanitation.

“Through the HSBC Water Programme we have now reached more than one million people with safe water and sanitation. This September, the world will commit to ending extreme poverty by 2030 when the new UN Sustainable Development Goals are agreed. Universal access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene will be absolutely critical to achieving that vision and creating a sustainable future for all.”

For more information visit #waterstories >