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In photos:

In photos: Water is everything

31 Aug 2017


  • freshwater

Globally, over 800 million people live without clean water. Water is at the heart of all living things – without it, we are nothing.

Since 2011, 31-year-old US photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz has captured the stories of people and land from four continents, showing the global water crisis through a series of beautiful but confronting large-scale photographs. These images encourage us to consider how safe and protected waterways are critical for our future.

Brought to Australia by the HSBC Water Programme and in partnership with WWF, Earthwatch and WaterAid, you can now experience Mustafah’s stark, honest images at the Water Stories exhibition.

This unique outdoor exhibition will be displayed at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney until the 5 September from 7.00 am - 8.00 pm. Don’t miss out on seeing Mustafah’s photographs by Sydney’s harbour.

Click here to find out more on Water Stories: The Global Water Crisis in Pictures.




China is predicted to become the world's largest economy. The pressure that its industry puts on the natural environment is expected to grow.
The situation across the vast Yangtze River Basin is a prime example of China at a crossroads. The 1.8 million km2 basin supports a third of China's 1.3 billion people, as well as half of the country wild animals, fish and plants. In recent decades, increases in shipping, pollution, illegal fishing and infrastructure have impacted freshwater supplies and the communities and wildlife that depend upon it.

 Shrimp fishing, Lake Hong, Hubei Province, China, 2015 © Mustafah Abdulaziz

Shrimp fishing, Lake Hong, Hubei Province, China, 2015.
Lake Hong has been damaged by unsustainable fishing practices. Over the past 14 years WWF, its partners, local communities and the government have helped to restore the lake. This demonstrates how sustainable fishing methods can result in healthy fish, reduced pollution and clean water.

Three Gorges Dam, Yichang, Hubei Province China, 2015 © Mustafah Abdulaziz

Three Gorges Dam, Yichang, Hubei Province China, 2015.
Hydropower projects have had huge impacts on the Yangtze River. The Three Gorges Dam, which stands 185m high and 3,035m wide, was designed to benefit people by controlling floods, generating power and aiding navigation. However, it has upset the natural flow of the river. Work is ongoing with the operators of the dam to ensure enough water is being released at key moments, thereby restoring the natural pulse of the river and supporting the needs of wildlife downstream.

Finless porpoise, Wuhan Institute of Hydrobiology Hubei Province, China, 2015 © Mustafah Abdulaziz

Finless porpoise, Wuhan Institute of Hydrobiology Hubei Province, China, 2015.
Pollution, overfishing and threats from industry and navigation mean that the finless porpoise is on the edge of extinction. WWF is working with the government and local communities to give the iconic species a future in China.

Pakistan is one of the most highly populated countries in the world. Urbanisation and political instability have resulted in millions of people lacking access to safe water and sanitation.
While progress has been made, 16 million people still do not have access to safe water and 68 million people do not have access to a toilet. That’s more than half of the country.

Women pulling water from a well in the Thar Desert, Pakistan 2013 © Mustafah Abdulaziz

Women pulling water from a well in the Thar Desert, Pakistan 2013.
Women and children are responsible for gathering water – a hard task without easy access to clean water supplies. An average of four to six hours a day is spent trekking in the blistering heat to reach unprotected wells. Temperatures hover at around 48-50 degrees C on summer days in the desert.


Children pause during their journey to collect water, Sindh, Pakistan 2013 © Mustafah Abdulaziz

Children pause during their journey to collect water, Sindh, Pakistan 2013.
In Pakistan, around 39,000 children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water lack of basic hygiene and toilets. Diarrhoea is the second biggest killer of children under the age of five worldwide.

Women making quilts, Tharparkar, Sindh, Pakistan, 2013 © Mustafah Abdulaziz

Women making quilts, Tharparkar, Sindh, Pakistan, 2013.
Each beautiful quilt, handmade by women in the district, takes up to a week to make and is sold for 250 Rs (about AUS $3). Spending hours each day in pursuit of water leaves little time for other activities, such as domestic duties, education or livelihoods.

With a population of 1.3 billion, India is the world’s largest democracy and one of the fastest growing large economies, second only to China. However, inequalities persist with over 300 million people living in extreme poverty. Essential social services continue to be inadequate, including safe drinking water, waste disposal, education and health care.


Rakhi Mandi a slum located on a landfill site, India © Mustafah Abdulaziz

Rakhi Mandi slum is located on a landfill site next to a busy railway line. Residents don’t have the legal right to build permanent structures such as toilets, even if they have the means to do so.
WaterAid, partnering with local NGO Shramik Bharti, started work in Rakhi Mandi in 2012. As one of the most notorious and marginalised slums in Kanpur, it took a long time to build the trust of its 3,500 residents. By 2015, much change had taken place. A water and sanitation committee was formed, hand pumps were repaired and more than 100 soak pits built to improve drainage. More than half the residents had built household toilets and the community is now on its way to being declared ‘open defecation free’. This not only reduces the risk of contaminating water sources, it also improves people’s health and provides privacy and dignity.

Drainage channel, Jana village, Kanpur, India, 2014 © Mustafah Abdulaziz

Drainage channel, Jana village, Kanpur, India, 2014.
Water from the nearby sewage works, polluted with chemicals from the tanneries, glue factories and poorly treated human waste, flows through Jana village on the banks of the Ganges.
With the support of WaterAid, local NGO Shramik Bharti started an awareness program in Jana village. Citizen leaders were identified and trained.They met with officials to help solve their water and sanitation problems.

Brazil is Latin America’s largest country and holds 12% of the world’s fresh water. It’s home to the world’s largest river (the mighty Amazon) and the world’s largest tropical wetland (the Pantanal). Both are threatened by expanding agriculture, infrastructure and deforestation.

Deforestation, Tangara de Serra, Mato Grosso, Brazil, 2015 © Mustafah Abdulaziz

Deforestation, Tangara de Serra, Mato Grosso, Brazil, 2015.
Agriculture is expanding rapidly in Brazil. In the state of Mato Grosso, vast areas of forest and vital vegetation have been cleared around water sources to make way for cattle farming and crop exports such as soy and sugar cane.Lack of enforced forest protection and unsustainable farming practice have led to extensive soil erosion. Silt and agricultural pesticides pollute rivers, reducing the water quality and in extreme cases, stopping the flow of the natural springs altogether.

Anteater, Pocone, Pantanal, Mato Grosso, brazil, 2015 © Mustafah Abdulaziz

Anteater, Pocone, Pantanal, Mato Grosso, Brazil, 2015.
The Pantanal tropical wetland has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It’s home to an incredible array of Latin America’s plants, wildlife and endangered species. The flourishing life in the Pantanal is profoundly connected to rivers that feed it, yet the headwaters that flow into it are under threat from the ever-increasing pressures posed by development, industry, infrastructure and agriculture.

Nigeria is Africa’s most highly populated country recently overtaking South Africa as the coninent’s largest economy. It is projected to be the third most populated country in the world by 2050. However, nearly 60 million people still live without adequate sanitation.

The water pump in Osukputu, Benue, Nigeria, 2015 © Mustafah Abdulaziz

The water pump in Osukputu, Benue, Nigeria, 2015.
Women and children gather at the hand pump.This pump serves the entire community of around 800 people with clean water.
Daily life in Osukputu has changed dramatically since WaterAid started work in the community to improve access to safe water and sanitation. These vital services have led to healthier families and stronger livelihoods.

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