Making water integrity more visual
Written by Alexandra Malmqvist, WIN‘s communication and advocacy coordinator.
When working on the topic of corruption in the water sector on a daily basis, one can easily forget how complex and difficult this issue can be. The water sector is made up of such a wealth of different stakeholders and institutions. Corruption manifests itself in many different ways and has such a huge variety of impacts (most often impacting the poor or the marginalised). This makes it very difficult to put one’s finger on the exact root of the problem.
Storytelling and photography can play an important role in unravelling the complexity of the topic. The Water Integrity Network therefore organises an annual photo competition where we asked people to send us pictures that they have taken. The photographs tell stories of how these people understand the problem of water corruption. Depicting corruption through photography is not an easy task. Because of its very nature corruption often takes place in the dark and is often expressed within power relations between stakeholders. So how do you visually capture the meaning of something as hidden and undisclosed as corruption?
Corruption in water has repercussions on many aspects of daily life. It can, for example, hinder access to clean water to drink and to adequate toilet facilities but it can also have devastating consequences on food security. This year we asked the participants of our photo competition to send us images of integrity and/or corruption issues in water & food. We received a large number of competition entries with very interesting, and often sad, stories behind them. We would like to introduce some of the photographers here. More can be found on our homepage.
The winner, Somennath Mukhophyay, was able to use his photo to show that agricultural effusion has led to water pollution and food insecurity. But the people in that community still have to use the water for their everyday needs. This problem is all too common.
Mass production of food and lack of involvement of the citizens to express their issues can lead to toxic water polluting common water sources or to water sources being redirected and used mainly or even solely for the production of food, bypassing the needs of local citizens. The changing climate also leads to a fluctuating availability of natural food resources, for example fish, and lack of proper planning can cause great risks of food insecurity in many communities around the world. Through their photos, many participants wanted to highlight the exclusion of everyday citizens in water planning and food production.
One of WIN’s goals is to improve participation in the water sector. Participation is a great opportunity to involve regular water users to share their concerns and problems with us and with the wider water sector so that they can be part of the solutions and so that their concerns are taken into account and addressed. This is also why I find this photo competition important. It has the possibility of giving a voice to those who are not often able to express their views and concerns. The competition gives them a platform to explain their perceptions of the problems.
In Stockholm, during the World Water Week where the 10 shortlisted photos will be exhibited, we’ll have the opportunity to speak to the winner to hear more about the story he is telling through his picture and the role of photography.