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Life Along a Dead River

Alexandru Salceanu | Philippines

Informal settler hunting waterhen.

This series documents life along a small stretch of the Marikina River, Philippines. I followed a few informal scavengers, fishermen and farmers for approximately six months and documented their struggle to survive in a toxic environment. About sixty percent of the pollution comes from human waste. The rest is composed of factory runoff, landfill debris, and littering. It was striking to witness their resilience despite the ecological degradation and natural disasters they faced. 

This series was developed in the course of six months along a 5 kilometer stretch of the Marikina River, Philippines. With the expansion and development of the City of Marikina in recent decades, the river has been declared “clinically dead” due to pollution from factories and neighboring dump sites. As developers convert the few remaining green pockets into concrete, informal settlers living off the land are forced to find other forms of livelihood. Despite the pollution, some fishermen and farmers have adapted by living off the remaining park lands on the peripheries of the river. Most of them remember when the Marikina River was crystal clear and the surrounding landscape consisted of farmlands. They continue to nurture the life and grounds that sustain them as previous generations have done. The Marikina River stands as a contradiction in which the organic and artificial are inextricably fused to form a new notion of the natural environment.


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