Kachchh Pani
Nothing here

Water is a serious problem in Kachchh, Gujarat. Traveling throughout this region, one becomes privy to the many troubling possibilities for communities constantly engaging in a struggle for clean, fresh water. The water in some areas is difficult to acquire; rivers have shifted and dried over time with reoccurring earthquakes that alter a landscape resting precariously on a seismic fault line. The water quality is bad, containing saline or high in iron, making it difficult to work with. Agricultural capability is limited and the artisan communities face the difficulty of water turning natural colors black. The capacity is limited for development in a region where water troubles are a theme, as the environment provides a roadblock.

The illustrations above are three scenes which play out in front of me and in my mind over and over - the evaporation of Lake Hamirsar in Bhuj, which when filled gives people cause to dance in the streets, the muddy colors of cloth being washed in water with high iron content from yet another failed bore well, the pumping of water in an arid climate as industries crop up and use the steadily decreasing underground water for other purposes. In the bleakness of it all I am impressed with the resourcefulness and creativity of people. Kachchh is home to a rich material culture, and the prints, patterns, and colors that pervade everyday life belie the struggles faced.

What are less easy to visualize are the solutions, but it is clear that a holistic approach to the problem of water conservation is a key first step. Working at the community level and government level to rectify issues of water, and ensuring that villages can be self-sustaining in their water consumption is vital. This will require many open chains of communication across the NGO sector, the government, and the population.

Coco Vonnegut has a dual BA in Asian Studies, with High Honors and Excellence, and Fine Art from Colgate University. A former AIF William J. Clinton Fellow and US Department of State Critical Language Scholar, she is currently pursuing a Master's degree at Columbia University's Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies and working as a freelance illustrator in NYC.

  • Illustrations by Coco Vonnegut