Jim Burroughs’ documentary focuses on three parts of the world where flooding has created chaotic destruction: New Orleans, the Netherlands and Bangladesh. Complicating matters in Bangladesh is the dam-building projects in neighboring India, which has resulted in precipitous declines in Bangladesh’s fresh water supplies.
Each location responded differently to its severe flooding: the Dutch reconstructed their levee system following 1953 floods, while the post-Katrina rescue efforts relied on Dutch imported pumping systems to remove water from the flooded streets. (The U.S. pumping technology was inadequate for the task.) But Bangladesh is at the mercy of nature and its larger hostile neighbor, which has resulted in the mass uprooting of entire villages coupled with the growing evaporation of key rivers. The India-Bangladesh situation is particularly disturbing, with the Indian government refusing to allow journalists to visit their dams and Indian soldiers firing across the border at Bangladeshi workers trying to shore up their side of the Brahmaputra River.
Despite the dramatic events presented here, “Waters Wars” strangely retains an academic and somewhat detached view of the subject. The calamities are documented with a textbook coolness – the facts are offered in a cerebral manner that often seems at odds with a great deal of its footage, especially the loss of lives in Bangladesh’s flooding. The resulting production is intelligent, though a true sense of urgency is kept in check.