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‘Water Stories’ from the world’s largest wetland – The Pantanal


Happy Pantanal Day! It’s a wetland that borders Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, that’s the size of Belgium, Portugal and Switzerland – no wonder it needs its own day of celebration.

In the second part of a Q and A series with photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz we explore what makes this beautiful place unique, the challenges it faces and the relationship between the people and vast array of wildlife that call it home.

What most stood out to you about the Pantanal?

The most impressive aspect of the Pantanal was witnessing the diversity of the fauna and wildlife at such a vital scale to the health of so many living organisms. The landscape is also poetic in it’s own way—the red dirt reminded me of places I had photographed in Africa that spoke to a very visceral and intimate feeling of closeness to the earth. Seeing the scale of agriculture was also a powerful reminder of the importance of working harmoniously with nature. We all rely so much on our environment, particularly in places that offer so much like the Pantanal.

©WWF-UKPantanal, Brazil

Have you noticed any difference between man’s relationship with water and nature in the Pantanal?

Not a difference but a similar behavior I’ve seen in other places I’ve documented the relationship of water and human beings, from the southern regions of Pakistan and the heartlands of Uttar Pradesh in India. Water resources are critical for so many aspects of human existence and in these areas, the economic value of food, products and technology provokes the usage of water at a massive scale. This interaction, one of use, reuse and misuse, is present in every place I’ve visited and is present in the Pantanal.

©WWF-UKFisherman in the Pantanal, Brazil

What do you think about the work WWF is doing in the Pantanal?

The work I witnessed addresses some of the fundamentals of what I personally believe to be the most important aspect of the challenge of water: motivating and providing the means for which people to change their behavior towards their environment in a positive, responsible direction. In the real world, this is done by understanding the complexities of the problems areas like the Pantanal face. This is why I’ve partnered with WWF for these new chapters of my work on water: not only do they work with intelligent people but with people who possess another quality I personally value: compassion and humanity. That is the basis for which change can be made, at small and large scales.

©WWF-UKPantanal, Brazil

Do you think there is connection between the water crisis in São Paulo and the challenges the Pantanal is facing?

The connection is one of human behavior; the differences are in the manner in which they manifest themselves. For example, I think São Paulo has, quite suitably, come in contact with something most large cities around the world will, unfortunately, become more accustomed to: how their existence, health and future is a self-created predicament with very long-lasting consequences. That is the universality of water and human beings. It is only that now the problem of water is not reserved to places far away but in the very cities where more and more people are living. This doesn’t make the problem new. It just makes it present in the minds of those who have never had to conserve, to think responsibility and enact positive, sustainable policies that reflect their reality.

©WWF-UKCantareira reservoir in São Paulo, Brazil

This post contains images taken on location in Brazil. You will be able to see Mustafah’s images from the Pantanal for WWF and São Paulo for EarthWatch in the Water Stories exhibition in London in Spring 2016.

The Pantanal’s headwaters are responsible for the water that flows to the wetland and supports life, yet they are under threat from deforestation and degradation. WWF has spent two years mobilising stakeholders to act to protect this precious resource and we have recently reached a significant milestone of all 25 municipalities in Mato Grosso State signing up to the Pantanal Pact.

©WWF-UKAerials of Central-West Region, Brazil

Find out more about what WWF is doing to safeguard freshwater resources around the world within the HSBC Water Programme.

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