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Living Along Mumbai’s Giant Water Pipelines

Jun 5th, 2013Asia, Environment, Health, International, Photos & Videos


Boy on pipes

Hop, skip and jumping along one of the water pipes

“There’s so much poverty to be seen here and at the same time so much joy and happiness.” This is how photographer Rob van Kessel describes his two-day journey along the giant pipes that supply the growing metropolis of Mumbai with water. From lakes high in India’s Western Ghats, these water mains snake their way down into the city like steel-encased rivers, impossible not to notice.
Three children

By the time these kids grow up, the pipes will likely have been replaced.

The pipes provide the slum dwellers living along their flanks with water, a road, a playground for children, and sometimes just a place to hang out. Soon these pipeline settlers will be relocated, however – indeed, many have already been evicted, their huts demolished – as the government attempts to overhaul a water supply system that has failed to keep up with the times.

A good place for some quiet contemplation

Most of these water pipes – or “trunks” as they are sometimes referred to – are old and corroding. Some are relics of the British, who laid them down around 100 years ago to provide for a very different city than the one that exists today, massive and teeming with people.
People walking on pipes

Taking the high road

The water pipes wind their way through countryside, fields, suburbs and shantytowns. According to one source, Mumbai’s pipelines cover an area of 2,400 kilometers (1,491 mi), above and below ground. And, on their way to the sprawling metropolis, the main pipes, like the seven seen here, run for 160 kilometers (99 mi) and range between 24 and a gigantic 108 inches in diameter.
Kids on pipes

Crossing the water

Most people in Mumbai don’t have the luxury of taking water for granted. Even when the monsoon season provides enough rainwater to fill the reservoirs, the supply, which is regulated by the municipal corporation of Mumbai (the BMC), is rationed. This is mostly due to deficiencies in the supply system, with leakages in the old pipe system a major issue. Taps that rely solely on this official source only run for about six hours a day (much less, it’s said, in some areas).

With special thanks to photographer Rob van Kessel for this incredible photographs.  And Yohani Kamarudin for the text.  This was originally posted in Environmental Graffiti.   Please go to Environmental Graffiti for the full slideshow.


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