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The History of Water

Production year: 1997 | 4x50' | Genre: Documentaries
The History of Water is a series on the relationship between man and fre …
Origin country: Norway
Production company: NRK
Original title: Vannets Historie

The History of Water is a series on the relationship between man and fresh water. It affords a comprehensive and absorbing insight into man's relationship with water from the point of view of history, economics, politics and religion.

 

THE HISTORY OF WATER, 4 x 52'.

The History of Water is a series on the relationship between man and fresh water. It affords a comprehensive and absorbing insight into man's relationship with water from the point of view of history, economics, politics and religion.

 

'Nothing yields as water, but only that can cause the hardest rock to crumble,' declared the Chinese sage Lao-Tzu 2500 years ago. But whereas he had in mind the role of water in nature, these programmes are primarily concerned with the importance of fresh water to the human race. As no society can survive, not even for a day, without fresh water, and as a person would die if he or she were to lose 20 per cent of the water of which the body is composed, the series has something to say to everyone.

 

The first episode, The Struggle for our Daily Water, takes the viewer from unique scenes of mountain dwellers in the Himalayas who have transformed a grey, sterile expanse of rock, 3000 metres above sea-level, into a verdant oasis by hewing out kilometre-long channels from the glaciers that interlace their precipitous mountain realm, to the Borana of southern Ethiopia, who, day in, day out, for months on end, manually draw from wells water for 300,000 people and a million head of cattle, their own muscles their only source of power. Next, the ancient civilization of the Nile valley is contrasted with the hypermodern methods of irrigation employed on the farms of western America, where the soil is levelled by laser technology to conserved the meagre supply of water on which this oasis civilization so totally depends. We then progress via the aqueducts and fountains of Rome to the world`s largest metropolis, Mexico City, which is slowly sinking as its population consumes the water underneath.

 

The second episode, Historic Watersheds, takes the viewer on a boat trip down through China's Three Gorges to the world's biggest dam, a dam which, on completion, will inundate and submerge for ever thousands of villages, and on to the longest canal ever built; constructed many centuries ago, it is over 1800 kilometres in length. The programme explores Britain's canal system and explains the important part played by these waterways in the Industrial Revolution. The scene then changes to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the world's largest religious building complex and the hub of a civilization which reached its zenith almost a thousand years ago, before giving way to views of the 'Rain Coast' of Norway, a land abundantly endowed with rivers, lakes and waterfalls.

 

Episode number three, Water to Water, is a journey devoted to water's religious significance. It commences with the desert religions of the Middle East, following in the footsteps of the Israelites from Jordan to Jericho, one of the first organized settlements in the world to be built around a source of water. The importance of water in Islam is discussed, and there are scenes from India's holy river, the Ganges, including shots of the enormous funeral pyres on the ghats that line its banks in the sacred city of Varanasi (Benares). The programme also looks at the history of the bath, from Roman times, when baths were centres of promiscuity, to modern hydrotherapy in Germany, and incorporates extracts from a film of an impressive ritual bath constructed by the Harappa, an obscure civilization centred on the Indus in what is now Pakistan.

 

The last episode is entitled The Battle for Water. Many people maintain that future wars will largely be fought over water, as the gap between supply and demand is growing ever wider. The programme first takes the viewer to the gaming tables of Las Vegas, to show how the city will die on its feet in the year 2030 unless something can be done to alleviate its water shortage. It then moves on to the world's second-largest freshwater lake, Lake Victoria in Uganda, which as little as one hundred years ago was still unknown to western explorers, but which has subsequently been employed as a lever to exert political pressure. This is followed by views of the Red Sea and River Jordan which clearly illustrate how over-exploitation is steadily diminishing the volume of water in this holiest of rivers, and that the saltiest of lakes is becoming saltier still. There are also unique shots of the oldest court of justice still functioning in Europe, a water court in Spain, and of a water auction in the Oman desert, where an extensive network of subterranean tunnels, excavated thousands of years ago, is still in use.

 

It is the result of collaboration between the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (stand no. C1.06) and the University of Bergen.

Still images


This program is featured in the following article(s):

Nordic World goes green (Mar 2011)

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