#TWOW (The Ways Of Water, June 20, 2015):

SynTalk thinks about the past, present and the future of water, and its dialectical relationship with Earth and life. We enter the worlds of rain, snow, ocean, monsoon, subterranean & surface rivers, dams, volcanoes, canals, lakes, estuaries, mountains, polar regions, and drains. What exactly is a river? Is water the same everywhere? The concepts are derived off / from Thales, Anaximander, Pierre Perrault, & Edme Mariotte, among others. We think of water both as an element and a compound. What would water be as a ‘ground’ of design and thinking, given that we are so wedded to the fixed dimensions of terra firma? How water is open, fluid (in space & time), and relative, and always retains its identity (?). Why are maps blue only somewhere, when water is everywhere? Do we privilege one moment in time (as rivers) in the hydrological cycle? Can we challenge ourselves to live in moments of (say) the rain or evaporation? Is there a need to include soil moisture in our imagination? How the sun is the essential driver of the water cycle, even though sunlight penetrates only till about ~100 metres in the sea. Do rivers also need water? How water is a lot more than H2O, with dissolved & suspended loads, nutrients, isotopic content, and microbial life. How & why rivers keep changing their dendritic courses? Are rivers fundamentally a series of holding & overflow systems, rather than systems with a source and a destination? How the ‘main stream’ of certain rivers may have been fallaciously justified historically by the surveyors? How stagnant water can be anti life. Have we (contextually) subjugated and privileged water, and told it: ‘be there, don’t come here’? Are floods a problem? Why do we channelize rivers, when water finds its own level? Is the earth losing water? When did it first rain on earth, and did rains come much before the rivers? The links between ~11 days, Cameroon’s Lake Nyos disaster, Catcher in the Rye, stream orders, The Big Muddy, photolysis, fair weather, Nile floods, run-offs, Sun, ecological cycles, electricity, Avogadro’s number, gravity, & independence. How water acts as Earth’s thermostat, & also helps the planet self sustain. Why doesn’t water vapour heat the earth up despite being a powerful greenhouse gas? Are there some water molecules that have never left the deep oceans or the atmosphere? How variation (a feature, & not a bug) is the life of water flow. What would happen if 100% of the rivers were dammed; could nature strike back? Can/should we simulate nature? Should dams be undone? Can future be a place of liberated water, with dissolved lines between land and water? The SynTalkrs are: Prof. Dilip da Cunha (architecture, design, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia), Shripad Dharmadhikary (social & environmental activism, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune), & Prof. Ramesh Rengaswamy (paleoclimatology, oceanography, PRL, Ahmedabad).

SynTalk is pleased and privileged to have hosted the following SynTalkrs (in alphabetical order) on its #TWOW show.

Prof. Dilip da Cunha (architecture, design) is an architect and a planner. He is the coauthor of ‘Mississippi Floods: Designing a Shifting Landscape’ (Yale University Press, 2001), ‘Deccan Traverses: the Making of Bangalore’s Terrain’ (Delhi: Rupa & Co., 2006) and ‘Soak: Mumbai in an Estuary’ (Delhi: NGMA and Rupa & Co., 2009), and co-editor of ‘Design in the Terrain of Water’ (A+RD Publishers, San Francisco, 2014). Prof. da Cunha and his partner, Anuradha Mathur, have focused their work on a concern for how water is visualized and engaged in ways that leads to conditions of its excess and scarcity. Their work also draws out opportunities that water’s fluidities and complexities offer for new visualizations of terrain and design imagination. It guides their teaching and design studios but also their research and practice. They are currently working on a project provisionally titled ‘The Invention of Rivers’. It stems from questioning the natural status given to rivers and the imaging and imagining that this assumption has inspired. Far from being natural entities, they argue that rivers are products of a cultivated eye that privilege water at one moment in the hydrological cycle when it appears containable and controllable. Prof. da Cunha is Adjunct Professor at the School of Design, University of Pennsylvania, USA, and is also on the faculty at Srishti School of Art, Design, and Technology in Bangalore.

Shripad Dharmadhikary (social & environmental activism) is a researcher, activist and a writer on social and environmental issues, with particular interest in water. He was trained as an engineer (B.Tech. (IIT Mumbai, 1985), and worked for a few years with the industry. However, his interests veered towards environment protection, justice and sustainability, and he soon became a full time activist of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). In NBA he lived amongst and worked with the affected people, carrying out research and analysis, village level mobilisation, planning and participating in mass action programs and protest actions, the international campaign of the NBA and legal action in the Supreme court. In 2001 he set up the Manthan Adhyayan Kendra to research water and energy issues in the broad framework of equity, justice, sustainability and development. He maintains close association with various struggles and campaigns around social and environmental justice issues. He is also currently pursuing a study that looks at the water and energy demanded by India’s current rate and model of economic growth, whether India’s water and energy resources can sustain such a growth, who will lose and who will gain in the process, and whether there is a need to relook at the very nature of this growth itself. Shripad is passionate about nature, mountains, rivers and waters and their preservation, loves being with people, music, reading, writing, cooking, and lives in a small village near Pune.

Prof. Rengaswamy Ramesh (paleoclimatology, oceanography) is currently the Outstanding Scientist in the Geoscience Division of the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad. His present areas of interest are stable isotope mass spectrometry, paleoclimate and paleoceanography (chemical & biological oceanography), isotopic tracers in earth system, climate modelling, carbon cycle radiocarbon dating, and marine nitrogen cycle. Some of his work in paleoclimatology includes coarse-resolution paleoclimatology using marine sediments & high resolution paleoclimatology using tree-rings, corals, speleothems and varved sediments. He is a Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), the Indian Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, Third World academy of Science, and the Geological Society of India. He is also the life member of the Indian Society for Mass spectrometry, and the Indian Meteorological Society, among others. He is also the Project Director, ISRO- GBP Paleoclimate Programme. He has published in more than 150 publications & refereed journals and has supervised ~19 Ph.D. students. The notable awards and recognitions received by Prof. Ramesh include the Indian National Science Academy (INSA) Young Scientist Medal (1987), SS Bhatnagar Award for Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean and Planetary Sciences (1998), TWAS Prize for Earth Science (2006), and the Nobel Peace Prize citation (2007).

ŸNote: Any & all errors in the brief profiles above are SynTalk’s own.