In the boundless Thar, deemed a ‘wasteland’ by the authorities, miners bulldoze sand dunes guarding life-sustaining water. The Gangetic dolphin, once a thriving apex predator, struggles for survival as its riverine habitat is fragmented by dams and roiled by incessant shipping. Deep in the mangrove forests of the Sunderban, tigers prey on desperate crab-catchers. Encroachments on the Mumbai coastline unleash cataclysmic floods. Along the eroding beaches of Kerala, fishers live in fear of the sea swallowing them whole. As the spectre of climate change compounds these natural and human-induced disasters, India’s most endangered landscapes are pushed to the precipice of destruction.
Author and Nat Geo Explorer, Arati Kumar-Rao journeys to these marginlands, listening intently to their inhabitants, paying close attention to each fissure, fold and ripple, as she documents the misguided decisions, wilfully ignored warnings and disregarded evidence that have brought us almost to a point of no return. But the land is still rich in ancient wisdom, and its cracks hold lessons that may yet aid us in undoing centuries of slow violence – so long as one is willing to attune their senses.
Arati will present photographs and art composed while conducting fieldwork for this project. She will be in conversation with Journalist & Editor, Prem Panicker.
Arati Kumar-Rao is an environmental photographer, writer, artist, and National Geographic Explorer documenting the effects of environmental degradation. Working primarily in the Indian subcontinent, she chronicles anthropogenic changes in landscapes and their fallouts on livelihood, culture, and biodiversity. She communicates through still and moving images, soundscapes, longform narratives, and art. Her work has appeared in National Geographic Magazine, Emergence Magazine, Hindu, Guardian, Hindustan Times, Mint, and BBC Outside Source, among other outlets. When not on assignment, she divides her time between the Western Ghats and Bangalore, where she is a happy mother to three rescued indoor cats.
Prem Panicker is a journalist and editor with 33 years in the profession. He is currently Consulting Editor, IndiaSpend.