Green film festival focuses on water

Water for Life is theme of Vatavaran 2015, India’s largest festival of environment-related films; the five-day festival starts in New Delhi on October 9

A purple heron stands still in the water, waiting for the right moment to dash for its prey. Just when it carefully makes its move, you know the fish has got away. The moment is so beautifully captured by Kiran Ghadge that you feel the anguish of the spent and hungry bird.

This is just one of the many moments that Ghadge has captured in his film ‘Kavadi – A Dying River’ to give an insight into the lives and behaviour of winged creatures and showcase how their lives revolve around the river Kavadi, near Pune in Maharashtra.

The film shows the river as the life giver it was, and then highlights its tragic transformation from a haven to a garbage dump. And the birds have no option but to cope with it, if they can. Otherwise, they die.

There is a scene where a grey heron’s beak gets entangled in a rope while trying to forage for food amid muck. The bird struggles for hours to free itself. You can almost see the fear on its face.

“I am a professional photographer and my main interest is wildlife and birds. Kavadi is a small river just 10-15 km away from the main city. I have seen this place change. Due to pollution, the number of birds has reduced. But what I have also highlighted is how birds are also trying to adapt and adjust to the changing environment,” Ghadge told thethirdpole.net.

To watch the trailer of ‘Kavadi- A Dying River’, click here.

It does not just highlight the plight of a river and creatures dependent on its clean water but celebrates beauty of nature through stunning visuals. It is among 74 nominated films that will be screened at CMS Vatavaran Environment & Wildlife Film Festivalbetween October 9 and 13 in New Delhi.

The festival that began in 2002 has successfully positioned India as a vibrant destination for environment and wildlife filmmaking and also incorporates discourse on environmental issues to bring about changes in perceptions and policies.

This year it has the theme ‘ Water for Life’ to highlight water problems and management issues in India and to discuss the health impacts of dying water resources, water scarcity and the urgent need to conserve waterbodies.

“Water is no longer an issue for any region, space or audience. It is a universal issue that affects everyone, be it a resident of Vasant Kunj in Delhi, or a farmer in Andhra Pradesh or Maharashtra. It is not an environmental issue any more but has turned into a social-political issue. It is an issue of survival,” said P.N. Vasanti, Director General, CMS, explaining why they chose water as the theme.

Usha Dewani – a founder member of New Ways, a group that uses Grassroots Comics as a development communication tool, and whose film has been nominated in the ‘Water For Life’ category – told thethirdpole.net, “There is such a big difference between the perceptions and water issues in urban and rural India. In a rural setting, the whole life revolves around the village well, ponds and other water sources, right from where to construct the house to which crop to grow. All these decisions are made on the basis of water sources. They (villagers) need it and thus they look after it.”

Dewani’s film ‘Locals Become Geohydrologists in Rapar’ is a tale of people living in water-scarce Kutch in Gujarat. Earlier, they were forced to migrate in the absence of rainfall but later empowered themselves and ensured their water security using geohydrological techniques. It shows how a community of migrants turned to their local knowledge and augmented it with technical knowledge to beat all odds.

The film documents how the locals now dig ponds and wells in water-stressed villages in Rapar block of Kutch using maps.

“Lot of people now understand geohydrology. They are equipped with this knowledge. People have been identified from the community who know how to apply knowledge. Now they don’t dig ponds anywhere. They can now analyse what kind of rocks are there, what the recharge potential is, read the maps and choose appropriate locations and it has just changed the lives of people,” said Dewani.

Recounting her experience of shooting the film and the emotions she felt while filming, Dewani said, “It was very overwhelming to see the kind of struggles these people have. Their need for water is much more and the way they have coped with it is very inspiring. In front of that, my own challenges of shooting were nothing.”

To watch the trailer of ‘Locals Become Geohydrologists in Rapar’, click here

Punjab. The word means five rivers. Surendra Manan uses his camera to show the plight of the five rivers. They have turned into disease carrying toxic drains due to intense industrial pollution. But it is not all doom and gloom. His film ‘The Battle Begins’ (it is among the nominees) captures the tale of a holy man who seeing the water crisis and its lethal health impacts started a movement on the ground. Thousands of people now follow him and have raised their voice against the contaminated water.

The film shows how the saint and his followers are making thousands of people across villages aware of the impending doom. “It has been 20 years since Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal has been bringing people from various religions and communities together. These are the people who are real sufferers as the water in drains and hand pumps have become so toxic that many people are suffering from cancer,” said Manan.

The number of cases of cancer have increased to such an extent that many people board a train that runs from Bhatinda in Punjab to Bikaner in Rajasthan for cheap treatment. The train is now called the cancer train.

The film brings shocking visuals of toxic water flowing in drains and in hand pumps. “It is all due to senseless, unplanned industrialization. It was a complete unplanned rat race. One of the factors for this disaster was that conventional drainage system of the region was destroyed and big industries and municipalities started dumping waste and toxic effluents directly into the rivers,” said Manan.

CMS Vatavaran received 178 films for the festival. The jury that judged them was headed by Rajendra Singh, often called the Water Man of India and this year’s winner of the Stockholm World Water Prize.

The festival is open to all, though one needs to register. It will be a treat for all those interested in water, environment or great documentary films.