Delta. The Perils, Profits and Politics of Water in South and Southeast Asia

This book of reportages is concerned with the vast, densely populated and intensively cultivated estuarine deltas of South and Southeast Asia. These regions are under threat from rising sea levels due to the melting of polar ice as a consequence of climate change, while the permanent loss of land due to overuse can already be observed.

Documented here are people’s attitudes to the natural world, and especially to the rivers – mythological entities inhabited by gods and spirits and an object of religious worship – whose cycles regulate their lives and the migratory patterns of fish, but which are increasingly being dammed as a source of energy to generate export revenues. The overriding theme is human resilience: in the face of floods, the aftermath of cyclones, and the silent emergency of soil and river bank erosion in Bangladesh; under the iron fist of an oppressive military regime in Burma; in the daily confrontations with the legacies of war in Cambodia; and in the challenges posed by a transition economy in Vietnam.

Among the Displaced in the Bay of Bengal.
Sandwip Island. Bangladesh. 7 July 1994.
A sequence of stills from a video by Osman Gani Mansur.
Left: Daniel Schwartz with visitors of the
Mawtinsun Pagoda festival.
Right: Pagoda Point at low tide, looking
into the Indian Ocean.
Cap Mawtinsun, Irrawaddy Division, Myanmar.
18 March 1992.


Delta. The Perils, Profits and Politics of Water in South and South East Asia
Thames & Hudson, London 1997
Scalo, New York and Zürich 1997
S.E.I., Torino 1997
Introduction by Tim Page
163 photographs


Scalo, Zürich 1999
Foreign Correspondent’s Club, Phnom Penh 1997
Foreign Correspondent’s Club, Bangkok 1992

Selected anthologies, catalogues, and print media publications

Bangladesh. GEO, 246, Paris, Août 1999
Weltenblicke. Reportagefotografie und ihre Medien. Winterthur und Zürich 1997
Modena per la Fotografia, Modena 1995
Rites Religieux, Thèmes, 5, Bruxelles, Mai-Juin 1995
Devotion, Fotopratica Immagini, 299, Milano, Ottobre 1994
Die tanzenden Flüsse von Bangladesh, Neue Zürcher Zeitung-Wochenende, 223, Zürich, 24.-25. September 1994
Bangladesh. Ein Land wie ein Floss, in: Trotzdem. Katastrophe und Kultur, DU, 635, Zürich, Februar 1994
Burma 1992. Eine Reportage, DU, 620, Zürich, November 1992
Bangladesh. Land im Wasser, Das Magazin, 17, Zürich, 24.-25. April 1992


»The work of a confident and politically-engaged citizen of the world.«

Parkett, 89, Zürich, 2011

»A visual “j’accuse”.«

Financial Times, London, 13-14 December 1997

»Schwartz now belongs to the new wave of Swiss photojournalists who have turned their lenses to the field and coalface and brought a fresh perspective to the ordinary. In doing so, they have made it profound.«

The Nation, Bangkok, 10. September 1997 

»Ein durchaus ungewöhnliches Projekt. Denn ebenso gut wie ein Fotobuch ist “Delta” auch ein Lesebuch. Ein beispielhaftes Kompendium zur Geographie, Politik und Ökonomie Asiens, das sich aus vielen Quellen speist.«

taz/die tageszeitung, Berlin, 9. September 1997

»The black-and-white images of flood victims in Bangladesh and rice harvesters in the bomb-cratered paddies of Cambodia, of mangrove-fellers in Vietnam and Indian boatmen on the Ganges, are also reminders of what we lost when Sunday newspaper supplements gave up serious photo-reportage.«

New Scientist, London, 9 August 1997

»Schwartz’ Domäne sind die Bilder vor und nach den Nachrichten«

Tages-Anzeiger, Zürich, 9. Juli 1997

»Eine existentielle Auseinandersetzung.«

Berner Zeitung, Bern, 23. Mai 1997

»La photographie “humaniste” a toujours ses tenants.«

Camera International, Paris, 35, 1992