Exploring water and urbanisation in the Himalayas: bridging communities of practice through photography and place

This project produced photographs and videos that documented changing lives and livelihoods in small towns in the Himalayas. The project created a travelling exhibition of visual materials and took it on the road in the UK, India and Nepal. The work aimed to stimulate public dialogue about future urban development strategies in the Himalayas.

The team also produced an interactive web portal that brings together archival material, photographs and narratives of change in the region into a compelling account of current development trajectories, and future challenges, to stimulate dialogue about future options for urban development strategies in the Himalayas.

This project was linked to ESPA research that examined water security and urbanisation across small towns of the Western Himalayas in India and Nepal. This research explored the ways in which urbanisation has changed the towns, lives, livelihoods and connectivity among hill dwelling communities. Specifically, the research used water as its entry point: examining how water availability and access strategies are reshaping these landscapes and the lives of their inhabitants.

The researchers worked in six small towns: Palampur and Rajgarh in Himachal Pradesh, and the colonial hill stations of Mussoorie and Nainital in Uttarakhand, all in India; and in Dhulikhel and Bidur in Nepal. The exhibition presented four themes that became visible across these six towns:

  • change and transformation around water sources
  • the growing visibility and rapid pace of urbanisation;
  • the ebbs, flows and characteristics of seasonality that affect both social and ecological systems; and
  • the ways in which physical, social and political infrastructures are being built, transformed and consolidated at this time of rapid change.
Lead Principal Investigator
Organisation: University of Cambridge
Country: United Kingdom