Aperture

The Waters Beneath

From floods to droughts to plastic-bottle wastelands, a world with — and without — water.

Photographs by Balazs Gardi

In May 2009, a truck rolled through the Sheikh Yasin camp in Mardan, Pakistan’s “city of hospitality,” where thousands of people had fled following one of the country’s military offensives against the Taliban.

If water was a scarce commodity to this refugee community, ice was a luxury. And it was worth fighting for: A single block could refrigerate whatever perishables the displaced had secured for their families.

Over the past 10 years, Hungarian photojournalist Balazs Gardi has explored how something as basic as water has become a source of global conflict. But his work focuses on more than just environmental catastrophes and humanitarian challenges; exposing corporate interests—the massive bottled-
water industry and the plastic waste it creates—is another layer of his project. When it comes to water, he asks, “Who produces it?
 Who owns it? And who profits from it?”

In order: A boy washes vegetables at a makeshift sink in front of his house in the Santa Marta favela
 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on
 Sept. 25, 2009; Displaced flood victims wait for aid in a village in Bihar, India, on Oct. 1, 2008; Smoke from burning plastic water bottles in Thilafushi—known
 as the “garbage island” of the
 Maldives—darkens the sky on
 June 17, 2010.

A boy washes vegetables at a makeshift sink in front of his house in the Santa Marta favela
 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on
 Sept. 25, 2009.

Displaced flood victims wait for aid in a village in Bihar, India, on Oct. 1, 2008.

Smoke from burning plastic water bottles in Thilafushi—known
 as the “garbage island” of the Maldives—darkens the sky on
 June 17, 2010.

Villagers travel on an overcrowded boat to visit their flooded homes in Bihar, India on Oct. 1, 2008.

In order: Esekon Eipan carries a gun to protect his herd while the goats drink from a watering hole in the
Todonyang plains of Kenya on February 11, 2014; People play at the Wild Wadi Water Park in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on April 16, 2008; Sheep farmer Bob MacFarland walks over his drought-ravaged land at Oxley Station near Hay, New South Wales, Australia in 2008.

Esekon Eipan carries a gun to protect his herd while the goats drink from a watering hole in the
Todonyang plains of Kenya on February 11, 2014.


People play at the Wild Wadi Water Park in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on April 16, 2008.

Sheep farmer Bob MacFarland walks over his drought-ravaged land at Oxley Station near Hay, New South Wales, Australia in 2008.


A cliff diver performs at Ik Kil cenote, a sinkhole, near Chichen Itza, Yucatán, Mexico, on April 9, 2011.

All photographs by Balazs Gardi

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