UNCCD: Indian Photographer Wins the UNCCD International Photo Contest

Copyright: Chetan Soni
Copyright: Chetan Soni

Chetan Soni is the first-prize winner of the International Photography Contest of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the secretariat of the Convention, which is based in Bonn, Germany. The picture depicts a young Indian girl dressed in a colorful blue and orange saree with pot in hand walking through the dry and cracked bed of Kal Bhairav Lake, where she once drew water. Now, she makes a daily journey to fetch water delivered by the National Defence’s trucks, courtesy of the state government of Madhya Pradesh, India.
The second prize went to Kyaw Thar of Myanmar and third prize to India’s Debashis Mukherjee. The secretariat also announced that Wanda Lopez Trelles won the Special Category on ‘Best Pictures Taken in Argentina’, for her picture entitled, “La sequía, problema de raíz” (Drought, the root of the problem) . According to Ms Trelles, the picture “portrays the value of water for the rural communities of the Chaco region, who have to live with extreme drought conditions that are exacerbated by deforestation.”

The secretariat of the Convention, in cooperation with the Secretariat for Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina, organized this second international photo contest to raise awareness about land degradation and desertification, and their social consequences.

A jury of eminent personalities selected the winning photos from among more than 1,000 images submitted from 59 countries by nearly 400 entrants. In selecting the winner, the jury determined that these three pictures best depicted, both conceptually and artistically, the efforts of people to conserve soil, land and/or water in drylands, and the relationship between affected populations and drylands ecosystems. A selection of the short-listed pictures will be on display at the ninth session of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention to be held from 21 September to 2 October 2009 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The prize-winning photo comes with a cash award of EUR1,500 or US dollars 1,800, and an all-expenses-paid trip to the award ceremony in Buenos Aires. The award is sponsored by private firms Sandisk, world renown producer of data storage, and Irrigabrasil, a leading manufacturer of irrigation systems.

The photos underline the importance of the Buenos Aires Conference whose key themes include climate change and the emerging trends in desertification, land degradation and drought, the development of measures to monitor and assess trends in drought, land degradation and desertification, and sustainable land management, that is, coupling appropriate water and land management in land use practices.

Speaking from his home town of Dhar after the announcement, an excited 33-year old Soni, who works as a photographer for a local studio, explained in his limited English, that he had observed the lake dry up over the last two years, due to “low monsoons.” Thus, when he saw the announcement of a photo contest by a body dealing with desertification, he thought he needed to draw attention to the fate of the lake, and was fortunate that he successful persuaded a passer-by girl to let him take a picture of her for “his photo contest project.”

For more information, contact:
Marcos Montoiro
Awareness Raising, Communication and Education Unit
Hermann-Ehlers-Str. 10, 53113
Bonn, Germany
Tel: (+49-228) 8152806
Fax: (+49-228) 8152899
Web: http://www.unccd.int

About the UNCCD: Developed as a result of the Rio Summit, the UNCCD is a unique instrument that has brought attention to land degradation in some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and affected populations in the world. Thirteen years after coming into force, the UNCCD benefits from the largest membership of the three Rio Conventions and is recognized as an instrument that can make an important contribution to the achievement of sustainable development and generate global benefits.