The Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta, comprising Bangladesh and West Bengal (India), is the world's largest delta. It empties into the Bay of Bengal and is also home to the Sunderbans. Due to human induced climate change, three-fourths of the Delta is at risk of destruction from anthropogenic stress factors.
Rising sea levels and the swelling of rivers have led to the disappearance and submergence of many Sunderban islands, while several more risk disappearance. The increase in salinity levels from inundations and storm surges threatens the health of the mangroves, the soil and crop quality, and the availability of freshwater fish species, thereby depriving families of their main protein source while also adversely affecting livelihoods.
The increased intensity of tropical cyclones like Aila, Hudhud and Sidr have destroyed property and life. Post-Aila, a mass exodus of able-bodied men was observed. Primarily fishermen or farmers, oftentimes these migrants lack adequate skills and end up as laborers in the construction sector. Migrating with families, many have ended up being the first environmental refugees in both countries.
Mangrove cover depletion will result in the loss of the biological shield that protects against cyclones and tsunamis, putting coastal communities at high risk. The major cities of Kolkata and Dhaka will be exposed to environmental catastrophes once this buffer zone disappears.
When this happens, my city, family and friends will go too. Along with the fact that most parts of my motherland, Bengal, will be submerged, it is this fear that propels my motivation and my sense of urgency in persevering with this project.
The Sunderbans is ecologically crucial in mitigating adverse climate change effects through carbon sequestration. The region’s destruction will exacerbate these adverse effects. At the forefront of the global war against climate change, the major brunt is borne by the inhabitants of the Delta, who are known for their sustainable ways of living, thereby leaving one of the smallest carbon footprints in the world.
Using a melange of video, photography and cartography depicting the inhabitants in this brutal, ever-changing milieu, this project comprehensively documents contemporary life in the Delta and investigates the exacerbating crisis in both countries simultaneously. This project has already been underway for the past four years and focuses on a critical examination of six islands in India and eight in Bangladesh, spread across the Delta.
An environmental refugee once told me, "Bereft of our land and livelihood, we are all but 'shunyo rajas' (kings of a bereft land) in this land of plenty." This is where the title of the project comes from.
The Sunderbans crisis concerns us all and its mitigation is our collective responsibility.
Who? Arko Datto
Docking September 11 - October 5 2018
Working on Shunyo Raja
About Climate change
Docking Station collaborates during Arko Datto’s residency with NOOR Images.
Arko Datto (India, 1986) questions what it means to be a photographer in the digital age while simultaneously playing the role of observer and commentator on critical issues. He pursue narratives on seemingly disparate topics- forced migration, techno- fascism, surveillance in the digital panopticon, disappearing islands, nocturnal realms and psychosomatic stress of captive animals to name a few.
He has recently won the Arles Prix Voies Off 2017 and the Gomma Grant 2016. He has been internationally published (TIME, National Geographic, Newsweek, Liberation, Al Jazeera, Financial Times) and exhibited (Arles, Ffotogallery, Museum fur Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt, Chobi Mela. Angkor Photo Festival).
managing director | NOOR
We are living in a fantastic time. In recent years, access to visual content has never been so easy. We must enjoy those tremendous opportunities, for today and tomorrow, however, it is also our responsibility to share our experience on how to produce this content, both in terms of storytelling and ethics. We believe that partnering with DockingStation can help us creating global impact through visual stories. Having, Arko join NOOR helped us to continue to confront dominant narratives using visual storytelling with integrity and passion. We exist to inspire empathy and action. As storyteller, Arko share with us this mission and will play an important role in helping us to achieve it.