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Basia Irland

Fulbright Scholar, Basia Irland is an author, poet, sculptor, installation artist, and activist who creates global water projects. She is Professor Emerita, Department of Art and Art History, University of New Mexico, where she established the Arts and Ecology Program. Irland works with scholars from diverse disciplines building rainwater harvesting systems; connecting communities and fostering dialogue along the entire length of rivers; filming and producing water documentaries; and creating waterborne disease projects around the world. She lectures and exhibits internationally and is regularly commissioned to do artistic river restoration projects. Check out her work at basiairland.com

What the River Knows: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap, Cambodia–As I flow through the town of Siem Reap, Cambodia, I am slow moving and bucolic-looking most of the year, with green parks and benches for people to sit and watch me flow by. But sometimes during rainy season I overflow and flood nearby buildings and roads. Along both sides of my banks there are old collapsing wooden houses hanging precariously over the water. These are currently being torn down in order to clean my body, while the local inhabitants will be relocated to rice fields nearby.

What the River Knows: Chao Phraya River

Here in the heart of busy, bustling, Bangkok, I am an urban working river with constant traffic of long heavily laden cargo barges pulled by tug-boats chugging slowly upriver. Speedy water taxies (known as longtails) zip across my spine from dock to dock. Wooden sampans speak of days gone by. Every day jam-packed ferries transport thousands of passengers including school children, commuters, monks, visitors, and families.

What the River Knows: Ping River

Maenam Ping, Chiang Mai, Thailand–On the night of the twelfth lunar month during the full moon at the end of the rainy season, communities gather along my banks to pay homage to me, and my water spirits. They thank the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha (พระแม่คงคา), which is the Thai form of Ganga, the Hindu goddess of the holy Ganges River, India. It is also a way to beg forgiveness for polluting and abusing me during the past year.