The Freshwater Trail Arati Kumar-Rao All the drinking water in the world will fit in a cube that can sit over the city of Bangalore. And in this industrial age, everyone wants a share of aquifers, rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Voices get shriller and stakes rise ever higher should a river cross borders. Add to all this, the looming unpredictability of extreme weather in the age of climate change. On the freshwater trail I will follow the changing fortunes of people and species in the anthropocene era


Endangered Rivers

Freshwater creatures are among the most endangered in the world

New: A Flash of Fin, A Glimmer of Hope

India's few remaining Indus river dolphins are confined to one short, beautiful stretch of the Beas. They have a fighting chance at survival only if we ensure a healthy river
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Dolphins, fishermen, and the Ganga

The Ganga-Brahmaputra basin is home to the endangered Gangetic dolphin. Dams, dredging, and impending plans for a highly trafficked waterway is now threatening the survival of this species

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The Politics Of Thirst

A burgeoning city in a dry belt, a transboundary river, and a drought Bangalore is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. But the city lies in a dry belt with rapidly depleting sources of freshwater. What lessons does history have for its growth? What does life in the basin look like, given the various tugs and pulls on the hotly contested Cauvery waters?

In The News

From the blog LongformSeptember 25, 2015
Part 1: Watering A City

Bangalore has no perennial rivers. Rulers and administrators over hundreds of years have recognized that this region is water-constrained and planned growth around water

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Part 2: Buy Me A River

Growth above all has been Bengaluru's motto. But Karnataka is facing the worst drought in 44 years. What does an increasingly unpredictable monsoon mean for Kempe Gauda's city? DataOctober 15, 2015
Map Data: How Full Are Our Reservoirs?

We are at the end of Monsoon 2015: How much water is stored in reservoirs in Karnataka?

The Water Culture Of The Deep Thar

A district in Rajasthan remembers old secrets to survival in the Thar Desert

Buy Xanax Over The Counter UPDATE: After going without a drop of rain for over 22 months, it has rained in the deep Thar in August, 2015.

The Desert Lives Again LongformJune 30, 2015
4: Blind Men & The Desert

The Indian government calls 68% of the Thar a "wasteland," and plans to "better utilize" it. Actions born of this new lexicon threaten to destroy livelihoods and an ecosystem at a time when monsoons are unpredictable

source site LongformJune 26, 2015
3: Forty Names Of Clouds

The deep Thar desert sees only forty cloudy days. Yet, the shepherds have as many different names for clouds. Does the essence of thriving in this hostile clime begin with an evocative lexis of the land? 

go to site LongformJune 21, 2015
2: The Memory Of Wells

Traditional desert dwellers, semi-nomadic shepherds, call upon ancient wisdom to survive in the deep Thar desert of Rajasthan. This is a story about people who remember where the wells live

source site LongformMay 22, 2015
1: Miracle Of Sky River

People of the Thar desert who live with the cycle of seasons find ways of feeding thousands of people without irrigation. This story unfolds over a year and recounts history through contemporary lives lived gently 

source link GlossaryJune 28, 2015
Landscape Glossary

When we lose an evocative lexicon of the land, when we forget, we lose what Barry Lopez calls the “voice of memory over the land.” This is an attempt to keep that lexicon alive 

source site ShortsMay 22, 2015
In Search Of A Minstrel

Where could I find the desert minstrels who sing a "chhand," a poem, of a fabled people long gone from the Jaisalmer area? Rumor had it that there were only very few minstrels who recited the poem anymore

The Trail Thus Far ...

Transboundary Stories: Teesta Water Sharing

India holds back Teesta river water to irrigate northern West Bengal, desiccating Bangladesh

here Longform
Trapped In Shards

India in Bangladesh in India in Bangladesh -- life for the people in the enclaves, remnants of forgotten Mughal treaties, hangs between a bloody border and a hungry river Longform
Shifting Sands, Shifting Lives

Life on the char islands in Bangladesh's Teesta river basin is heavily dependent on water in the river. And that is controlled by upstream India

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When A River Runs Dry

No water in the rivers means no fish. No fish means no money. No money means no food. The fisherman's view of the Teesta water-sharing non-agreement

Environmental Migrants Along The Ganges & Brahmaputra

Climate change exacerbates thoughtless anthropogenic interventions, disrupting lives and destroying livelihoods

Cheap Xanax Bars LongformJuly 2, 2015
The Nowhere People

Loss of land & livelihood due to erosion brought on by a wildly swinging Ganges in West Bengal has led to a slew of new Environmental Refugees. This work was completed on a grant from The Asia Foundation.

Cheap Valium Wholesale PhotoessayMay 25, 2015
Landlords To Bed, Beggars To Rise

A photoessay on environmental refugees and victims of erosion from a hungry wayward Ganges, starved and interrupted by the Farakka Barrage PhotosMarch 20, 2015
Frontlines Of Erosion

“The solution to save Calcutta port did not work, and instead it continues to wreak havoc on Northern Bengal.” ShortsMay 22, 2015
Smothered By Sand

Devastation from floods induced by increasingly severe weather events are only half the story. Swollen rivers carry sand displaced by river-bed mining and deforestation and dump it on fields, rendering them inert

source site PhotoessayMay 22, 2015
Delusion Of Dykes

Assam has over 4,400 km of dykes in a bid to control a flooding Brahmaputra. Many of these are over 50 years old, neglected, weak. They breach, the river floods, people turn refugees in their own land

source url ShortsMay 12, 2015
The Crack Readers

Space and time is running out for the people of the north bank of the Brahmaputra as a swinging, wild river rams into their farms and homesteads and swallows it all whole. 

Estuaries: The Endangered Sundarbans

The world's largest unbroken stand of mangrove forests is threatened by an oil spill, impending coal-plants, and hazardous cargo ships LongformFebruary 1, 2015
The Oil Spill

The murky matter of an oil spill in the largest unbroken stand of mangroves in the world and the murkier cover-up. A story from the Sundarbans in Bangladesh PhotoessayDecember 17, 2014
A Toxic Clean-up

Don’t Touch. Don’t Ingest. Don’t Inhale!
No one told the fishermen of the three hazards of heavy fuel oil. Unknowing, they did all three ShortsApril 1, 2015
Tale Of Two Studies

A UN team surveyed the Sundarbans oil spill and spoke no evil. An independent study details the havoc that was, and warns of the doom to follow ShortsMay 23, 2015
Tankers In The Mangroves

May 23: Five months after a devastating oil spill, the Bangladeshi government removes a ban on oil tankers plying through the Sundarbans, endangering its main defender in the battle against climate change

click here Longform
On The Brink Of Brine

The Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna empty into the Bay of Bengal, making this large active delta. The ecosystem survives on the delicate balance of freshwater and brine

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Before The Spill

The Sundarbans is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These mangrove forests form a large part of the estuarine active delta of three mighty South Asian rivers: the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, & the Meghna Photos
The Black Legacy

On December 9, 2014, 358,000 liters of heavy fuel oil gushed into the Sundarbans. The effect on the “Beautiful Forest” was not pretty

go here LongformJune 24, 2015
Killing The Hero

A dirty coal-fired plant, a ship-breaking yard, petroleum reservoirs, and toxic shipping traffic gravely threaten the Sundarbans, the frontline of Bangladesh's defense against climate change

A Trip Down The Sela River

September/ December 2014 | Bangladesh

Empty Nets, Imperiled Livelihoods

Millions of fishermen depend upon the estuarine ecosystem, where the river meets the sea

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Disappearing Hilsa

All along the length of Bangladesh and especially in the ecologically rich delta, fishermen's nets had come up empty and the delta echoed with tales of woe. Where was the Hilsa? Shorts
Pirates and Perils

Fishermen in the Sundarbans traditionally battle tigers, crocodiles and the venomous eel-tailed catfish. Now they face a new, more deadly predator: river pirates