Water is a natural resource vital for basic survival and for the economic development necessary for peace, prosperity, and security. It is central to history, mythology, religion, art, and culture. Human civilizations historically were built on the banks of rivers and oceans; their economies, agriculture, and transportation were largely dependent on water. Rivers are characteristically trans-boundary, and river water disputes between countries are sometimes the cause of flooding. Yet rivers can teach us openness, solidarity, romanticism, and give us the spirit to live.
The ancient civilizations of Bangladesh were surrounded by many rivers. The Padma is the second largest river in Bangladesh and is the main distributary of the Ganges, which originates from the Gangotri glacier in the Himalayas. In Hindu mythology, the river Padma is one of the embodiments of the Goddess Laxmi. The bed of the Padma is wide but over the years, due to climate change and diversion of its natural path, it is becoming increasingly narrow and dry. During monsoon season, flooding and erosion of the Padma often causes environmental and economic catastrophes.
Among the myriad subjects for photography in Bangladesh, politics, violence, disaster, and crisis have figured extensively. Yet, as one born in this multicultural country, I believe there is a great opportunity to portray Bangladeshi peoples’ lives and struggles with the river through photography. It is remarkable that this subject has never been captured boldly in detail as a full body of work, given the river’s significance in Bengali culture.