Behind the image 30 August 2014

Sunset Char Fishers

This image was taken on the Yamuna river in Bangladesh. The river is known as the Tsangpo (Tibet), the Brahmaputra (India) and the Yamuna (Bangladesh).

As the sun sets, fishers return home with their catch.  These fishers live on chars, river islands that form by the depositing of silt collected as the river comes down from the Himalayas in Tibet. Whilst the river might give, in the form of deposits that become islands, the river also takes away, as erosion destroys chars and their inhabitants’ homes and livelihoods, regularly.

This means that families need to relocate – either to other chars or to other livelihoods. Their livelihood security is often, at best, fluid.

Many men will leave – to go to the cities in search of income, to look at Government programmes which can support them.  Of course, this in turn means that men leave their families in search of income. And this process isn’t only within chars – you see it happening across the Himalayas and elsewhere.

Those cycle-wallahs, who take you around Dhaka or elsewhere, have a back-story.  Life in the middle of the river, on a char, will be part of that for many.  Men who search for income opportunities in whatever way they can.

This image was taken as I was travelling to one of the chars to see the work of a non-government organisation that was bringing medical care to char populations. Their hospitals are ships, with operating theatres, health care professionals and consulting rooms. The ship stays in one place for a period of time, perhaps a few week or a few months, depending on what is needed, then casts off to go to another char, providing health care to other people.

 For me, this image is an image of rights – livelihoods by the char dweller, but also the role of the state to support people who inhabit the periphery of life both on the chars and their situations in the cities they migrate to.