“The challenges facing water systems in the Himalayas and the need for ecologically wise decision-making is the focus of a major exhibition attracting many visitors at the University of Cambridge as part of its India Unboxed programme and the Festival of Ideas.”
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The Kempty Falls, 13 km from Mussoorie, feature prominently in Smith’s photographs, as he captures tourists dressed in colourful swimwear, sporting inflatable tubes. It features rightly so in the exhibition, owing to the explosion of domestic tourists, unregulated construction and development it has seen in the last five years. “Our colleagues in the irrigation department have indicated that, if properly managed, a place like Kempty Falls could meet a large part of Mussoorie’s water needs. It is, of course, currently not managed in this way, and the significant increase in tourist traffic risks both polluting and degrading the water source,” Vira says. The aim of this exhibition, says Smith, is to make the project more accessible to audiences in a metro city.
Toby Smith’s images of mountainscapes and people, their cultures and lives are evocative. They tell a story, invoke a reaction. They are striking yet subtle — saying so much more than what is obviously visible, leaving room for interpretation, and introspection. The messages are subtle, not in your face. The images are a celebration of the sacred life-affirming waters of the Himalayas, a timely reminder of its vanishing, as we enter another dry season.
He hopes the exhibition is successful and attended by large number of people. “The exhibition is designed to function on a number of different levels. It is a deliberate balance and combination of a photography exhibition and an information resource on water in the lower Himalayas. We hope that visitors engage with both and perhaps better understand the relationship of water and population in India.”
…our obsession with summer getaways comes at a price—a price borne by water-deprived locals struggling with shifting demands, even as a booming tourist economy refuses to buckle down on mindless construction. The inevitability of an acute water crisis in the lower Himalayas of India and Nepal is laid out bare in the ongoing photography exhibition Pani-Pahar: Waters of the Himalayas at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi.
British photojournalist Toby Smith, who is currently artist-in-residence at the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute, has translated a research project into a hard-hitting photography exhibition which covers the hill towns of Palampur, Rajgarh, Mussoorie, Nainital in India, and Dhulikhel and Bidur in Nepal, to highlight water shortage and management in the Himalayan foothills. Late 19th century images taken by British photographer Samuel Bourne are set against photos taken by Smith last year to bring home the extent of urban degradation and pressure on land-use in these so called “hillside havens”. In one panel one can see sparse 1,880 images of water carriers from the Fullerton Collection; the Library and Bandstand in Shimla from 1890 and a rather deserted-looking Himalayan Club in Mussoorie from the colonel Hume collection. These are played against contemporary images of the same locations and the contrast is all too visceral.
For a dose of reality on how hillside communities struggle to meet their daily water needs in high-season and the ways in which they adapt to use and manage water from existing sources, head to Pani-Pahar this month.
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Instead of a quiet walk in the hills, one has to wade through crowds, the silence of the hills is replaced by constantly blaring horns of innumerable vehicles at the service of the tourists, and the rhododendrons on the face of the hills long disappeared to make way for the ugly hotel facades with their names flashing like a bad dream through the mountain air. British photographer Toby Smith encountered all of this, and more, as he traversed the Lower Himalayas in India and Nepal on a project researching land-use and development. The project aims at spotlighting the impact environmental and social change have on the ways small towns use and distribute water in the region.
Toby Smith’s striking images of the Himalayas convey the issue of water conservation in the hills subtly and it is rare to see hardcore research on environment resulting in a creative endeavour. This collaboration is evident at the photography exhibition “Pani-Pahar: Water of the Himalayas” at Jorbagh Metro station. Part of Habitat Photosphere, India Habitat Centre’s photo-fest on sustainable development, it showcases several striking pictures clicked by well-known British photo-journalist Toby Smith, an Associate Scholar of the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute. These are based on an academic study conducted in India (Palampur, Rajgarh, Nainital and Mussoorie) and Nepal (Bidur and Dhilukhel) on land-use and development in the lower Himalayas by Professor Bhaskar Vira and Dr. Eszter Kovacs of the Department of Geography at Cambridge University. The study brings to fore how environmental and social changes are impacting the ways in which small towns throughout the region source and distribute water. Smith hopes that the gravity of water scarcity and its impact will reach out to a wider audience through the pictures and provoke a reaction.