By 2025, the World Health Organisation estimates that half of the globe’s population will be living in water-stressed areas because of climate change, population growth and urbanisation.
Belgian photographer Pascal Mannaerts went travelling to capture how this basic resource is treated from country to country and valued in different ways, whether it’s considered ‘rare and precious, sacred, a political instrument or dividing’.
His imagery shows a woman carrying water in Burkino Faso, where some spend up to four hours a day searching for it, a man drawing water from a well in Tajikistan, one of the most isolated places on earth, and a lone water canister hanging from a pole in the rain-starved Gobi Desert.
In stark contrast a picture taken in Kyrgyzstan shows water frivolously shooting forth from fountains. It’s certainly thought-provoking.
Commenting on water scarcity, Mannaerts told MailOnline Travel: ‘It is obvious that water has become an increasingly important and serious problem. Some people are starting to really become aware of it, and consider this evidence. Changes and measures must be taken.’
Scroll down to look at Mannaerts’ watery visual tale…
Mannaerts said of this photo taken in India: ‘Rajasthan merchants water their camels during the annual Pushkar fair. Each year, some 200,000 people gather in Pushkar, at the edge of the Thar desert. The city turns into a whirlwind of colours, sounds and movements’. Water shortage is a major problem in the Thar area as the limited groundwater is pretty much the only source of water. Rainfall is limited to 100 – 500 mm per year. By comparison, the western highlands of Scotland gets up to 4,577 mm
A girl poses in Gorom-Gorom, in the Sahel region of Burkina Faso in west Africa. Mannaerts notes that Sahel is one of the driest and warmest regions in the world. It stretches 2,500 miles across arid shrub-land, south of the Sahara desert and has been subject to low, and highly variable rainfall patterns. On average it gets around 100 – 600mm a year. Less than half the population of the Sahel has access to water and women can spend up to four hours a day looking for safe water
Mannaerts took this image, showing flood waters washing into Kolkata, India, in 2002. Deadly floods are common in some parts of India, particularly during the monsoon season that runs from July to September each year. Despite the influx of water, the city’s groundwater levels have plummeted in various parts, with experts worried the poor will be hit by a water famine. It was reported in The Times of India this spring that in one neighbourhood, there were only two taps, with water dispensed twice daily for 40 minutes at a time. This curtailed supply lead to ‘chaos and fights every day’
A young boy eagerly slurps water from his hand in this portrait taken in Varanasi, India. The city obtains a total of 270 million litres of water from the river Ganga and wells. Yet every fifth citizen lacks drinking water, as the ground water is polluted due to nitrate and human waste
Two girls giggle as they walk through a fountain in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Mannaerts notes that the country has no access to the sea – 85 per cent of Kyrgyz’s water reserves come from glaciers. However, these reserves are waning due to rapid urbanisation and climate change, which has seen the glaciers shrink by 30 to 35 per cent over the past 30 years
A monk blesses a Wednesday buddha with a small bowl of water at the famed Rangoon Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar. In 2014 it was reported that Myanmar had lost 40 days from its annual monsoon over the past 35 years, leading to severe shortages of water both for consumption and agriculture
Hindu worshippers bathe and collect water from the sacred Ganges in Haridwar, India, during a religious festival. The ancient city is in the state of Uttarakhand, where there is a drinking water supply problem in more than 17,000 villages. This is due to due to dried up water sources or failed drinking water projects
A woman named Shahandam sits with a bowl of washing water, ready to start a new day in the rural area of Fars Province, Iran. According to Iran’s National Drought Warning and Monitoring Center , the period between September and December 2017 was the country’s driest in over 67 years, and about 40 per cent of Iran is undergoing a ‘serious drought’
Mannaerts says that collecting water from a well is part of daily life in the Bulunkul region of Tajikistan. He notes that this area forms one of the most unexplored and isolated regions on earth. A 2012 study by the United Nations found that most Tajiks lack access to safe and clean water. Rivers and ditches, which many people rely on for drinking water, are often polluted by agricultural runoff and human sewage
This photo shows the process of leatherworking in the Hazaribagh district of Dhaka. Mannaerts says that in 2013, Hazaribagh was ranked fifth on the list of the most polluted places in the world. Tanneries apparently dump more than 22,000 cubic litres of toxic waste every day into Buriganga, the main river in Dhaka, which can cause skin and respiratory diseases
This water reserve is no doubt a welcome sight for those trekking through the arid 500,000-square-mile Gobi Desert in Mongolia (Gobi means ‘waterless place’ in Mongolian). A 2014 report from the Asian Development Bank warned that Mongolia, despite its wealth of natural resources, faces severe water scarcity. Hundreds of the country’s lakes and rivers have dried up due to rising temperatures (it can reach 45C in the summer months) and low rainfall (some areas here receive less than two inches a year), and there is significant desertification of land especially in the south
Young farm labourers use river water to cultivate a plot of land in Djenné, Mali. The area has been hit by severe drought over the years and there is a critical lack of cleaning drinking water. According to Charity : Water, 37.13 per cent of those living in rural areas lack access to water, while 78.5 per cent lack sanitation
Hindus immerse themselves in basins filled with colourful waters during the Rang Panchami celebrations in the holy city of Nashik, India. The event attracts thousands of attendees and each ancient swimming pool can hold up to 50,000 litres of water. Nashik has been hit by water shortages over recent years due to failing pipelines and falling rain levels. This spring it was reported that as many as 866 villages in the Nashik area were facing water supply issues
Two girls pay a visit to a well to fill up their water bottles during break time at a school in Bangladesh. The south Asian country has one of the highest population densities in the world, with a population of 160 million living within 57,000 square miles. But of those 160 million people, four million lack safe water and 85 million lack improved sanitation
After prayers in Mumbai, a man stops to cool down and refresh at a drinking fountain. The city faced water problems this year and some suggested supplies should be rationed after holy festivals. It gets its water from several lakes and levels were said to be two million litres down from 2017
A young girl ventures down to a flowing stream to fill up a water jug in the in Langar, Tajikistan. Many families in the country’s rural ares spend hours each day trekking to find clean water
A man cracks a smile at the camera as he fills up a bottle at a public fountain in central Shiraz, Iran. The fountain features a portrait of Hazrat Abbas drawing water from the river Euphrates. It is estimated there is some form of drought in 97 per cent of the country
A man feels the force of a gushing waterfall in Arslanbob, Kyrgyzstan. The water resource crisis blights much of Central Asia. In Kyrgyzstan, finding safe drinking water is difficult due to dried up rivers and holes in decaying irrigation networks
A woman meditates off Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. Rising sea levels are predicted to result in storm waters and waves washing up and over the low lying islands. This process of ‘overwash’ makes fresh water unsuitable for human consumption. Reunion has a high population living in the lowland areas around the coast