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Wars, refugees and inner turmoil: The defining images from this year’s World Press Photo contest

The annual contest showcases the best work of photojournalists around the world.

“Right now I see the world marching towards the edge of an abyss,” said João Silva, a jury member for the World Press Photo Contest. “This is a man who has clearly reached a breaking point and his statement is to assassinate someone who he really blames, a country that he blames, for what is going on elsewhere in the region. I feel that what is happening in Europe, what is happening in America, what is happening in the Far East, Middle East, Syria, and this image to me talks of it.”

Silva was referring to the winning image taken by photographer Burhan Ozbilici in December, a chilling portrait clicked seconds after the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov. The image shows the gunman, later identified as an off-duty Turkish policeman named Mevlut Mert Altintas, shouting with one arm raised above his head and a gun in the other. “It is the face of hatred,” Silva added.

World Press Photo of the Year | An Assassination in Turkey: Mevlut Mert Altintas shouts after shooting Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, at an art gallery in Ankara, Turkey, in December 2016. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici).
World Press Photo of the Year | An Assassination in Turkey: Mevlut Mert Altintas shouts after shooting Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, at an art gallery in Ankara, Turkey, in December 2016. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici).

The assassination took place after several days of protests in Turkey, over the Russian involvement in the Syrian civil war and the battle over Aleppo. “Every time it came on the screen you almost had to move back, because it’s such an explosive image and we really felt that it epitomises the definition of what the World Press Photo of the Year is, and what it means,” said Mary F Calvert, another member of the jury.

The World Press Photo Contest rewards photographers for their work in the field of visual journalism. Contestants submit their work as a standalone picture, or in the form of stories and are judged in terms of their accurate and visually compelling insights about the world.

Daily Life, second prize (singles) | Sweat Makes Champions: Four students of a gymnastics school in Xuzhou, China, do toe-pressure training for 30 minutes in the afternoon. (Tiejun Wang, China)
Daily Life, second prize (singles) | Sweat Makes Champions: Four students of a gymnastics school in Xuzhou, China, do toe-pressure training for 30 minutes in the afternoon. (Tiejun Wang, China)

Photographers Mathieu Willcocks from UK, and Abd Doumani and Ameer Alhalbi from Syria have captured the many faces of the refugee and migrant crises from around the world. While Willcocks trained his lens on the the central Mediterranean migration route, between the coasts of Libya and Italy, Doumani and Alhalbi shot moving images of the destruction in the Syrian cities of Damascus and Aleppo.

Spot News, third prize (stories) | Mediterranean Migration: Libyan fishermen throw a life jacket at a rubber boat full of migrants, November 2016. (Mathieu Willcocks)
Spot News, third prize (stories) | Mediterranean Migration: Libyan fishermen throw a life jacket at a rubber boat full of migrants, November 2016. (Mathieu Willcocks)

The pictures are compelling because they speak to our most basic need – the struggle for survival. In photograph after photograph, the humans featured as subjects struggle to survive hunger, weakening bodies, drowning or bombs raining from the sky in the place they once called home.

Spot News, second prize (stories) | Rescued from the Rubble: Syrian men carrying babies make their way through the rubble of destroyed buildings following a reported airstrike on the rebel-held Salihin neighborhood of Aleppo. Airstrikes have killed dozens in rebel-held parts of Syria as the opposition considers whether to join a US-Russia truce deal due to take effect on September 12. (Ameer Alhalbi for Agence France-Presse)
Spot News, second prize (stories) | Rescued from the Rubble: Syrian men carrying babies make their way through the rubble of destroyed buildings following a reported airstrike on the rebel-held Salihin neighborhood of Aleppo. Airstrikes have killed dozens in rebel-held parts of Syria as the opposition considers whether to join a US-Russia truce deal due to take effect on September 12. (Ameer Alhalbi for Agence France-Presse)
Spot News, second prize (singles) | Medics Assist a Wounded Girl: A Syrian girl cries out as a wounded child lies next to her at a makeshift hospital. She had been injured in reported government airstrikes on the rebel-held town of Douma, east of Damascus, Syria, September 2016. (Abd Doumani for Agence France-Presse)
Spot News, second prize (singles) | Medics Assist a Wounded Girl: A Syrian girl cries out as a wounded child lies next to her at a makeshift hospital. She had been injured in reported government airstrikes on the rebel-held town of Douma, east of Damascus, Syria, September 2016. (Abd Doumani for Agence France-Presse)

Among the many winners was the photograph of a wild leopard in a human settlement in Mumbai, looking for its next meal. The image was taken by Indian wildlife photographer Nayan Khanolkar. “The leopard is on its nocturnal prowl in the adjacent human settlements in search of food, which in these areas is typically dogs or pigs,” reads the description. The image won the second prize in the “singles” nature category.

Nature, second prize (singles) | Big Cat in My Backyard: A wild leopard strolls through Sanjay Gandhi National Park, a protected area in the northern part of Mumbai, India, September 2016.  (Nayan Khanolkar)
Nature, second prize (singles) | Big Cat in My Backyard: A wild leopard strolls through Sanjay Gandhi National Park, a protected area in the northern part of Mumbai, India, September 2016. (Nayan Khanolkar)

Away from the violence and death, some photographers’ works endeavoured to bring forth a quieter, inner turmoil. Finnish photographer Markus Jokela has been photographing the small rural community of Table Rock in Nebraska, US, since 1992, and describes the town as “a place where nothing really happens and nothing ever changes”. His intimate portraits of the mundane draw viewers into the lives of his subjects – like Peyton Schaardt, a little girl coping with her mother’s death, or Kelly Freeman, whom the photographer follows as she prepares for her wedding.

Long-Term Projects, third prize | Table Rock, Nebraska: Peyton Schaardt, four months after her mother’s death, October 2013. (Markus Jokela for Helsingin Sanomat)
Long-Term Projects, third prize | Table Rock, Nebraska: Peyton Schaardt, four months after her mother’s death, October 2013. (Markus Jokela for Helsingin Sanomat)
Long-Term Projects, third prize | Table Rock, Nebraska: Kelly Freeman arrives at her wedding reception in Dubois, Kansas, October 2013. (Markus Jokela for Helsingin Sanomat)
Long-Term Projects, third prize | Table Rock, Nebraska: Kelly Freeman arrives at her wedding reception in Dubois, Kansas, October 2013. (Markus Jokela for Helsingin Sanomat)

In the ironically named series, Copacabana Palace, German photographer Peter Bauza travelled to Brazil and spent time photographing squatters at a series of condominiums which house more than 300 homeless families. Built more than 30 years ago, the construction on this complex was never finished.

Contemporary Issues, third prize (stories) | Copacabana Palace: A pastor, who also lives in the occupied buildings, explains all the construction problems. A couple of weeks ago, the hall floors from a building crashed down at night. Fortunately everybody was sleeping and nothing serious happened. Most of the buildings are exposed to corrosion, July 2015. (Peter Bauza)
Contemporary Issues, third prize (stories) | Copacabana Palace: A pastor, who also lives in the occupied buildings, explains all the construction problems. A couple of weeks ago, the hall floors from a building crashed down at night. Fortunately everybody was sleeping and nothing serious happened. Most of the buildings are exposed to corrosion, July 2015. (Peter Bauza)
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India’s urban water crisis calls for an integrated approach

We need solutions that address different aspects of the water eco-system and involve the collective participation of citizens and other stake-holders.

According to a UN report, around 1.2 billion people, or almost one fifth of the world’s population, live in areas where water is physically scarce and another 1.6 billion people, or nearly one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage. They lack basic access to water. The criticality of the water situation across the world has in fact given rise to speculations over water wars becoming a distinct possibility in the future. In India the problem is compounded, given the rising population and urbanization. The Asian Development Bank has forecast that by 2030, India will have a water deficit of 50%.

Water challenges in urban India

For urban India, the situation is critical. In 2015, about 377 million Indians lived in urban areas and by 2030, the urban population is expected to rise to 590 million. Already, according to the National Sample Survey, only 47% of urban households have individual water connections and about 40% to 50% of water is reportedly lost in distribution systems due to various reasons. Further, as per the 2011 census, only 32.7% of urban Indian households are connected to a piped sewerage system.

Any comprehensive solution to address the water problem in urban India needs to take into account the specific challenges around water management and distribution:

Pressure on water sources: Rising demand on water means rising pressure on water sources, especially in cities. In a city like Mumbai for example, 3,750 Million Litres per Day (MLD) of water, including water for commercial and industrial use, is available, whereas 4,500 MLD is needed. The primary sources of water for cities like Mumbai are lakes created by dams across rivers near the city. Distributing the available water means providing 386,971 connections to the city’s roughly 13 million residents. When distribution becomes challenging, the workaround is to tap ground water. According to a study by the Centre for Science and Environment, 48% of urban water supply in India comes from ground water. Ground water exploitation for commercial and domestic use in most cities is leading to reduction in ground water level.

Distribution and water loss issues: Distribution challenges, such as water loss due to theft, pilferage, leaky pipes and faulty meter readings, result in unequal and unregulated distribution of water. In New Delhi, for example, water distribution loss was reported to be about 40% as per a study. In Mumbai, where most residents get only 2-5 hours of water supply per day, the non-revenue water loss is about 27% of the overall water supply. This strains the municipal body’s budget and impacts the improvement of distribution infrastructure. Factors such as difficult terrain and legal issues over buildings also affect water supply to many parts. According to a study, only 5% of piped water reaches slum areas in 42 Indian cities, including New Delhi. A 2011 study also found that 95% of households in slum areas in Mumbai’s Kaula Bunder district, in some seasons, use less than the WHO-recommended minimum of 50 litres per capita per day.

Water pollution and contamination: In India, almost 400,000 children die every year of diarrhea, primarily due to contaminated water. According to a 2017 report, 630 million people in the South East Asian countries, including India, use faeces-contaminated drinking water source, becoming susceptible to a range of diseases. Industrial waste is also a major cause for water contamination, particularly antibiotic ingredients released into rivers and soils by pharma companies. A Guardian report talks about pollution from drug companies, particularly those in India and China, resulting in the creation of drug-resistant superbugs. The report cites a study which indicates that by 2050, the total death toll worldwide due to infection by drug resistant bacteria could reach 10 million people.

A holistic approach to tackling water challenges

Addressing these challenges and improving access to clean water for all needs a combination of short-term and medium-term solutions. It also means involving the community and various stakeholders in implementing the solutions. This is the crux of the recommendations put forth by BASF.

The proposed solutions, based on a study of water issues in cities such as Mumbai, take into account different aspects of water management and distribution. Backed by a close understanding of the cost implications, they can make a difference in tackling urban water challenges. These solutions include:

Recycling and harvesting: Raw sewage water which is dumped into oceans damages the coastal eco-system. Instead, this could be used as a cheaper alternative to fresh water for industrial purposes. According to a 2011 World Bank report, 13% of total freshwater withdrawal in India is for industrial use. What’s more, the industrial demand for water is expected to grow at a rate of 4.2% per year till 2025. Much of this demand can be met by recycling and treating sewage water. In Mumbai for example, 3000 MLD of sewage water is released, almost 80% of fresh water availability. This can be purified and utilised for industrial needs. An example of recycled sewage water being used for industrial purpose is the 30 MLD waste water treatment facility at Gandhinagar and Anjar in Gujarat set up by Welspun India Ltd.

Another example is the proposal by Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) to recycle and reclaim sewage water treated at its existing facilities to meet the secondary purposes of both industries and residential complexes. In fact, residential complexes can similarly recycle and re-use their waste water for secondary purposes such as gardening.

Also, alternative rain water harvesting methods such as harvesting rain water from concrete surfaces using porous concrete can be used to supplement roof-top rain water harvesting, to help replenish ground water.

Community initiatives to supplement regular water supply: Initiatives such as community water storage and decentralised treatment facilities, including elevated water towers or reservoirs and water ATMs, based on a realistic understanding of the costs involved, can help support the city’s water distribution. Water towers or elevated reservoirs with onsite filters can also help optimise the space available for water distribution in congested cities. Water ATMs, which are automated water dispensing units that can be accessed with a smart card or an app, can ensure metered supply of safe water.

Testing and purification: With water contamination being a big challenge, the adoption of affordable and reliable multi-household water filter systems which are electricity free and easy to use can help, to some extent, access to safe drinking water at a domestic level. Also, the use of household water testing kits and the installation of water quality sensors on pipes, that send out alerts on water contamination, can create awareness of water contamination and drive suitable preventive steps.

Public awareness and use of technology: Public awareness campaigns, tax incentives for water conservation and the use of technology interfaces can also go a long way in addressing the water problem. For example, measures such as water credits can be introduced with tax benefits as incentives for efficient use and recycling of water. Similarly, government water apps, like that of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, can be used to spread tips on water saving, report leakage or send updates on water quality.

Collaborative approach: Finally, a collaborative approach like the adoption of a public-private partnership model for water projects can help. There are already examples of best practices here. For example, in Netherlands, water companies are incorporated as private companies, with the local and national governments being majority shareholders. Involving citizens through social business models for decentralised water supply, treatment or storage installations like water ATMs, as also the appointment of water guardians who can report on various aspects of water supply and usage can help in efficient water management. Grass-root level organizations could be partnered with for programmes to spread awareness on water safety and conservation.

For BASF, the proposed solutions are an extension of their close engagement with developing water management and water treatment solutions. The products developed specially for waste and drinking water treatment, such as Zetag® ULTRA and Magnafloc® LT, focus on ensuring sustainability, efficiency and cost effectiveness in the water and sludge treatment process.

BASF is also associated with operations of Reliance Industries’ desalination plant at Jamnagar in Gujarat.The thermal plant is designed to deliver up to 170,000 cubic meters of processed water per day. The use of inge® ultrafiltration technologies allows a continuous delivery of pre-filtered water at a consistent high-quality level, while the dosage of the Sokalan® PM 15 I protects the desalination plant from scaling. This combination of BASF’s expertise minimises the energy footprint of the plant and secures water supply independent of the seasonal fluctuations. To know more about BASF’s range of sustainable solutions and innovative chemical products for the water industry, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.