We live on the Blue Planet, the Water Planet. Yet according to the UN, 1.1 billion people lack decent access to drinking water. Because of this (and the related, though even more widespread, lack of decent sanitation), some 20,000 people die every day, most of them children. In reality, we are facing a crisis of unsustainability, which we have caused by taking too much water from the environment, systematically polluting our rivers and aquifers.

The over-extraction of rivers and aquifers, the draining of wetlands, the clearing of forests, and the fragmentation of riverine habitats by large dams, have cumulatively destroyed the life of rivers, decimating the fisheries upon which countless poor people depend.

The World Commission on Dams estimated that between 40 and 80 million people have been evicted from their homes and villages to make way for one of the more than 50,000 large dams that were constructed during the 20th century. “Between 40 and 80 million” . . . in other words, no one knows the exact number.

The pressure for privatization from agencies like the World Bank has transformed citizens into customers, ignoring the fact that access to drinking water should be guaranteed and a human right.

In sum, we are facing a hydrological holocaust, in which the victims are invisible, distant and faceless. Our consciences easily forget them.

In the Water, Rivers and People exhibition, we decided to give a voice to these people, who are simultaneously both victims and protagonists for a more just, dignified, and sustainable world. We aim to show the human side of water conflicts, giving those who suffer and struggle the most the opportunity to express themselves. Perhaps they do not have all the answers to these problems, but there is no doubt that they are suffering on the front lines. They deserve to be heard and their stories taken into consideration.

Pedro Arrojo Agudo

© Fundación Nueva Cultura del Agua 2009