Mary Jane Monteroso is 11 years old and this is her home in the Parola Binondo area of Manila Harbor. She is the third of six kids in her family. Here she is collecting plastic trash for recycling near her family’s stilt home. She earns 12 to 50 pesos per kilogram of plastic.
Her father had an operation last year so Mary Jane stopped her schooling to help support the family, which lives in the stilt home to the far left of this picture. When she feels hot, she goes for a swim in the sewage and trash laced estuary of the Pasig River, which meets the sea here after passing through downtown Manila.
The river winds through downtown Manila and carries refuse that gets deposited on the shore beneath Mary Jane’s home. The Parola Biondo side of Manila Harbor is home to about 20,000 squatters. With a rapidly growing population, the slums of Manila have extended onto coastal mudflats and waterways that are very susceptible to flooding from rising sea levels.
The government is trying to move these people out of the hazard areas but has agreed that they must be moved to new areas from which they can reasonably commute to work. This photograph is part of a project that examines the global impact of rising sea levels and the ways different countries and communities are engineering solutions to this growing problem.
Photo and story: George Steinmetz
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