Book Review Fleuves Frontières or Transboundary Rivers

By Franck Vogel

In Franck Vogel’s most recent work, he blends incredible life in the landscape photography and narrative to explore transboundary rivers’ challenges, conflicts, and possibilities in a two-volume set. In Fleuves Frontières (2016) or Transboundary Rivers, Vogel analyzes unique issues of the Nile, Brahmaputra, Colorado, and Jordan Rivers. He investigates the tensions created by Egypt and Sudan, who control 87% of the Nile River’s flow, with each other and nine other countries, including South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, DR Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. Despite peaceful efforts such as the Nile Basin Initiative, renegotiation of the river’s resources remains elusive. Vogel then examines how China and India’s thirst for energy creation to assist in each country’s development is creating a dry-out of the river and flooding in agricultural and heritage areas as well as rising conflict between the two countries. Next, he shows the lack of sustainability of human intervention in the Colorado River basin of the American Southwest where wetland flora and fauna and vulnerable human populations receive the brunt of diverting waters mostly for agricultural purposes to California’s Imperial Valley. Finally, he studies the Jordan River—perhaps the river in the longest conflict due to its utilitarian and holy significance to both Israelis and Palestinians. As with all of these great rivers, damming has damaged ecosystems at a grand scale as water is diverted upstream so that little fresh water arrives downstream. Yet, Vogel also suggests that creating innovative solutions to these issues of the Jordan River, for example, could become a pathway to peace for the historical tension between the two nations. Indeed, Vogel seamlessly weaves intimate personal social and cultural practices with regional economic and political practices to reveal multifaceted relationships associated with each of these transboundary rivers. His skillful and artful photography at multiple scales provides the reader a sense of the challenges and complexity as well as the opportunities and beauty of these riparian environments. Readers will look forward to the next volume of this set, to be published in 2018, where Vogel continues his quest to understand the transboundary Mekong, Ganges, Zambezi, and Amazon Rivers.