Monday, August 17, 2009

Water War and Irrigation Without Borders - Bangladeshi Theatre pouring out their concern

"Water War (water is life not for sale)" is a play written and designed by Art Action Union community member Sorkar Haider. Sorkar is a resident of Bangladesh and expresses his concerns through theatre alongside the Karigar theatre troupe. His latest scripted production draws to the surface the impact of globalisation, international conflict and neighbouring policy on Bangladesh, it's people and the river systems that have been their life and culture.

The fear that Sorkar and his fellow thespians are aiming to express, is the deep nature of greed and control that could cost them not only access to this necessity for life, but invoke violence and inter-dependent corruption that could overcome nations as the resource diminishes.

The play was inspired by the reflection of the actors’ love of the rivers as children in their earlier village life.

From the play brief that Sorkar sent to the Art Action Union (transcribed as is):

We discover some moments at the bend of river and we see rivers have chronological story, birth story, and all people are love them.

Bangladesh is irrigated by rivers. In the ancient and middle ages near about 850 rivers to flowed over the country and they meet with Bay of Bengal. But now this time we are seeing only 249 rivers. Where are the other rivers? Death. There are 90 percent people dependent on rivers in Bangladesh. The people are habituate by agricultural farming, fishing, stone business and other river related works.

All the rivers come from India because all the rivers are born on Himalaya and other hills. Indian govt. blocked 168 rivers water by damming 249 rivers. The Bangladeshi people are suffering a very poor time for water and river. Farrakhan dam is malediction for Bangladeshi people. Ganges water hindered by Farakka. In that time Indian govt want to build a dam on Surma, Kushiara, and Borak river. If it will happen more than 2 core peoples will suffer.

What is the global situation of rivers? It is impossible to talk about human civilisation without talking about Water.

One generation passeth away,

and another generation cometh;

but the earth abideth always...

all rivers runneth to the sea,

yet the sea is not full...


The words are beautiful, haunting and suddenly anachronistic, but they are not true owing to growth, change and devolvement during our lives. Even degraded rivers seldom totally runneth at all, but loiter in a chain of reservations. In some years our mightiest rivers, Africa's Nile, Asia's Yellow, America's Colorado, Australia's Murray do not reach the sea...

"Water War" will present some small story about the people who are suffering for water. It will be performed by two characters, they are acting in speaking mood. They tell five stories. Five stories are ...

1. Dighal Kumari, a story of a sweet village girl who will die for water.

2. Alluvial Lande, a story of rivers crying and alluvial lands people.

3. Love story, A mythological love story about rivers, a green love story of Ganges and Sitolakkha (River names).

4. Water Bottle, a story of bottling water.

5. Dam, a story about Dam.

Not only are the Bangladeshi people suffering by water. The whole World and Nature are suffering for water. We are losing our natural beauty and people's natural activities. People and Nature are fighting for water in opposition to some peoples.

And there are people here in Australia, here in the west, who refuse to consider the option of recycled water or even share their dams with neighbouring shires OF THE SAME STATE AND COUNTRY.

Wake up world, pollution kills.

… and bottling water from a spring in France and shipping it all over the world for the luxury of the polluters is just pure madness.

How many carbon credits in the production of one bottle of less-than-pure springwater from the Evian spring once it arrives in the offshore export country??? Not to mention at all the environmental implications in the use of plastics and the population’s lack of mental strength to grasp the concept of “recycling receptical”… sheesh…

Bangladesh is a country that I know very little about. When I think of it though, I think of monsoons and thick lush terrain with a rich, colourful, vibrant, long-lasting and resilient local culture. Not at all like this dusty island nation that recieves so little empathy from it’s population in times of drought.

It is sad to think that the actions of one country that shares resources, that has a responsibility to it’s neighbours and to the livlihood of our global community and global community mental health, could allow such ‘greed’ to take place.

Where are the international ethics on river systems, is it allowable for a country to block a river that flows to another country’s life-line? It is allowable for one nation to dam a river and stop it flowing before it escapes the border of it’s jurisdiction?

Does a country own a river that does not start within it and flows through to the other side of it to another border?

I becomes particularly nasty if the sanitation system of the water greedy country in question is questionable and squanderous in it’s directive and resource.

What does a de-salination plant cost in carbon credits again???

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Environmental art project grants - $13,000

Can arts make a difference to the environment?

If you are an emerging artist under the age of 26 that works with visual art as a means to promote the environment and sustainability, than you may be interested in trying for a slice of this rather generous pie.

Queensland Conservation and the Australia Council are working towards creating a number of unique projects fusing the world of the arts and activism.

What a novel idea!

Utilising the artist as a catalyst for change, and change as a catalyst for the artist, the grant promises to give support and training in association with Feral Arts in Brisbane ( Such is the need for promoting sustainable environmental ideologies to diversified audiences, art is generally a medium that appeals (in some form or other) to just about everyone in every culture.

$A15 000 (including $2000 for travel) in mentorships will be awarded to deserving young emerging artists to raise environmental challenges in their work. Artists will be involved and mentored by environmental activists to learn about issues ranging from climate change to biodiversity conservation. The end result to be a magnificent work or works that will bring together the environment, community and creativity.

From the press release:

Ryan Dillon, Queensland Conservation Executive Member says the HELM-Arts (Healthy Environment Leadership Mentoring) project is innovative because it helps develop a new generation of artistic leadership.

“This project will expose, train and support young artists and shape them into effective leaders who can advocate for a sustainable world through their art,” Dillon says.

“Queensland Conservation, the peak body for more than 60 environmental groups in Queensland, is well placed to build closer links with the art sector,” Dillon states, “and we are hoping to attract nominations from a broad range of artists, geographical locations and ethnic backgrounds.”

“We created the term HELM-Arts as we feel it is up to young people to take the helm and lead the way with environmental change,” Dillon says.

The Art Action Union had a discussion with Ryan Dillon about art challenging environmental education.

We discussed how the mentorship grants will help these young emerging artists bloom.

Ryan said in a manner of speaking, “the good thing is that it’s a partnership with the Queensland Conservation Council/Australia Council and Feral Arts, two of the best and most well networked environmental and arts organisations in this region. We hope the project will network people from all over the country to create outcomes in Queensland and cross-train arts activists with direct hands on experience to create an ‘eco arts space’ to be watched and anticipated.”

I like the way Ryan used the term ‘eco arts space’ it creates a vision of a new and necessary arts culture. A microcosmic and specialised art form that has purpose and reward.

We discussed what will happen with the work once it is finished? How will the work be used as an education tool for awareness beyond the initial grant timeframe?

Mr. Dillon had a very strong idea that it was open for interpretation.

“Given the diversity of artists that we are expecting to see apply for this opportunity, it really will be up to the discretion of the successful artist. All artists will have their merits measured against the same criteria but that doesn’t mean that we will have a set idea about what type of work it will be and how it will be finished. The artists must demonstrate professionalism but it is up to them to prove that they have the best plans in arts education for sustainable environment and the best way of presenting it for long-term educational and arts benefits.

We are looking for art that is provocative and emotionally engaging, hopefully the viewer will see the art and want to get involved actively with climate change. The main motivation behind the HELM terminology is to provide a vision for young people to form their ideas around leadership in this area. They are at the HELM of the Titanic with the iceberg [ironic ‘cause really they are melting] looming in the near distance, the artist has to steer that ship with creative thinking to take a new course and not crash. To engage a new audience through new networks. It is up to the artists to decide what is provocative.”

Thanks to Ryan for his time and patience with my dodgy technology.

It is hoped that the HELM-Arts project will become an annual arts grant event.

Further about the initiative is available online at is available online at:

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