Photojournalist Upayan Chatterjee tells the story of NGO restorative efforts in the aftermath of cyclonic storm Amphan.
A severe cyclonic storm, Storm Amphan hit the state of West Bengal on May 20th 2020 and led to state-wide devastation on a catastrophic scale. The coastal areas are devastated and will take at least two years to recover, while major problems like week-long suspension of water supply and a shortage of electricity will become commonplace over the next few days.
There has been several aspects of the devastation, coming at a time when the world was already crippled by the COVID-19 Pandemic. I developed my own visual story to follow and narrate the widespread devastation of the trees from the day of the cyclone itself and later extended my project to cover the restoration efforts taken up by certain Non-Governmental Organisations operating in West Bengal. The restoration of large trees is, in itself, an extremely complicated task given the sheer amount of manpower and heavy machinery needed to complete the task. I followed the restoration activity launched at my University Campus by Biloopto in collaboration with Nature Mates. Their drive saw the rebirth of more than 100 trees in and around their targeted area, it was an enriching experience to witness and know of their relentless hard-work which spanned from identifying prospective trees amongst the thousands of uprooted ones, then catering to each of them by carefully judging their individual needs. The entire work was based on crowd-funding and even with all vested efforts, a serious lack of funds plagued the initiative.
Heavy machines and cranes were deployed in the process and even in the current situation, it is amazing how the organisations saw the work through with sheer dedication towards making an impact.
The visual story is, at its heart, a photographic representation of my own personal feelings regarding what I saw and how I felt on witnessing the fallen trees in my own locality and within my University Campus, the despair that came with the death of the trees that I had known for a long time, together with the humble hopes that formed from following the relentless hard-work of certain organisations towards trying to restore trees which still had life in them. The body of work attempts to visually narrate the devastating deaths of large trees caused by the cyclone and closely follows the restoration work launched at my University Campus, which saw the rebirth of more than 100 trees over the two Campus sites of Jadavpur University (at Jadavpur and Salt Lake) in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. The photo-story has been compiled to be a blend of direct documentary imagery and abstract creative images to simultaneously convey information and feelings through the essay.
The activities of Biloopto can be traced at their website ( http://biloopto.org/) as well as many other fledgling NGO’s with a serious aim to make positive changes, donations play a major part in aiding and sustaining their initiatives.