To mark this year’s Earth Science Week (14-19 October), international development charity Christian Aid has launched Big River Rising, an interactive documentary which demonstrates the importance of science in helping Filipino slum dwellers cope with flooding that claims innocent lives every year.
Shot during the dramatic August 2012 monsoon deluge, which flooded much of the Manila metropolis and forced more than 700,000 people to evacuate, Big River Rising begins with the story of 52-year-old mother-of-five Belen de Guzman as she nervously monitors the rising river close to her home.
The documentary follows Belen, who has been trained by Christian Aid partner the Centre for Disaster Preparedness to monitor the river and alert her community, as she helps coordinate the evacuation while her shantytown home disappears beneath the floodwaters.
Using photography, text, audio and video, Big River Rising explores how rapid and uncontrolled urban development, mountain deforestation, mining activities and global climatic changes have made Metro Manila and its poorest communities even more vulnerable to flooding. The web-doc also shows why communities choose to stay in the ‘danger zones’, refusing to leave their homes, despite the risk to their lives.
Big River Rising explains how scientists are working with Christian Aid and local organisations to train poor communities to understand their geological environment, the hazards they face and their local chaotic weather systems. This training enables them to develop life-saving early warning systems and community evacuation plans.
Allan Vera, Senior Programme Officer at Christian Aid in the Philippines said: ‘If we really want poor people to understand future risks and have opportunities to thrive and not just survive, we have to collaborate with scientists. This will help to protect poor people from future disasters and give them information to make the right decisions.’
Institutions involved in the collaboration include the Manila Observatory, Marine Science Institute, National Institute of Geological Sciences. The work will help local campaigners demonstrate the vulnerability of slum dwellers with credible evidence, and lobby the Filipino government for lasting solutions.
Metro Manila is home to more than 11 million people, including two million urban poor. Sitting on the West Valley Fault Line it is the most densely populated Metropolis on earth, with the greatest concentration of vulnerable people, and regularly receives the brunt of South East Asia’s annual typhoon season.
Funding from UKAid helps support Christian Aid partnerships with scientific and urban poor communities.
* Big River Rising, endorsed by the Geological Society, launched on 14 October at www.christianaid.org.uk/bigriverrising