Displaced Earth: Climate refugees in the Philippines
For the millions of people in Metro Manila living in between margins and surrounding farming regions, the effect of changing weather patterns is starting to have an even greater impact on their lives.
Extreme drought is destroying rice paddies in the northern provinces, making it hard for farmers to meet quotas every harvest season, while the dams that provide water to the megalopolis such as Angat Dam in Bulacan province are dropping to alarmingly low levels during dry season. As the monsoon and typhoon season comes, torrential rains and typhoons displace tens of thousands of families living in and around Manila.
In the 3rd quarter of 2009, back-to-back typhoons Ketsana and Parma ravaged the central and northern provinces of the Philippines. Nearly 1,000 people died in the two storms, and thousands more were displaced, according to the National Disaster and Coordinating Council. About 80 percent of Manila was submerged at one point of the disaster, while landslides wiped out houses in remote mountainous areas and vast amounts of precious crops were destroyed.
After the tragedy, thousands of people who lost their homes were faced with the dilemma of continuing to live in areas vulnerable to extreme weather or seek refuge elsewhere. But in reality for many their only choice was to stay.
In 2010, at least one million of the 90 million Filipinos were refugees in their own land due to the impacts of extreme weather, according to an investigative report published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer with figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The nation's fast-growing population, chaotic urban planning and corruption are all adding to the problem. Manila is sinking due to over pumping of ground water for daily use, according to geologists from a consortium of governmental agencies and other aid organizations. Watershed areas are being destroyed for new settlements. And sewage systems are becoming increasingly clogged so that floods are exacerbated whenever floods hit Manila.
This project aims to illustrate different scenarios caused by severe weather patterns (El Nino & La Nina). The photographic project focuses on communities displaced due to the danger posed or caused by massive flooding. It also shows farming communities in nearby provinces that are greatly affected by drought.
This project aims to give a face to those who are greatly affected by climate change and live under the continuous threat of severe weather events. What is sometimes overlooked in the mainstream media outlets are the long-term effects of the disasters, or a follow-up on the lives of the people who were displaced.
While scientists still debate the extent that climate change is having on weather patterns, the world is undoubtedtly getting hotter. The United Nations' World Meteorological Organization reported in November 2011 that 13 of the warmest years on record had occurred in the past 15 years.
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has also warned that tens of millions of people living in poorer countries will be most vulnerable to the worsening impacts of climate change.
In a succession of images, the project visually tells us the consequences Filipinos will face if we do not act up and combat this pressing issue.
*A part of this project was also in collaboration with U.N World Food Programme Philippines and Greenpeace