Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is one of the most crowded cities on Earth. An estimated 200,000 people live in a single square mile in some neighbourhoods — nearly three times the density of Manhattan.
In 2017, German photographer Bernhard Lang set out to capture the overpopulation crisis from above. The images show the residents’ living conditions as they are rarely seen. Lang shared some photos from his series with us. You can check out more of his work on Instagram and Facebook.
About one billion people around the world live in slums, the BBC reports. About 2% of slum dwellers worldwide can be found in the Philippines, an island nation.
In 2017, Bernhard Lang decided to shoot a photo series on what he considers 'one of the most urgent global questions to solve' -- overpopulation.
His research led him to Manila, where the multicolored roofs of the slums and shanty towns -- made from scraps and recycled materials -- reminded him of abstract paintings.
Lang hired a helicopter to fly him over the city. 'From above, you get a good sense how closely the housings of the slum areas are compressed against each other,' he said.
On his first night in Manila, a fire ravaged Tondo, the city's largest slum. Because the homes there are packed so tightly, fire trucks struggled to reach the area.
That night, Lang watched a column of smoke build over the city from his hotel window.
The next morning, he flew over Tondo. The fire destroyed 1,000 homes and left more than 3,000 people homeless, according to Lang. 'Luckily, nobody was killed,' he said.
Manila experienced two more fires during the week of Lang's visit.
Fires and floods are constant threats in Manila. Its location in the Ring of Fire, a basin of the Pacific Ocean, makes it vulnerable to earthquakes and typhoons as well.
Garbage travels through the polluted waters near the city's slums, which leads to increased risk of bacterial disease. Lang said the waste problem was 'particularly visible' from above.
Residents of Manila experience other symptoms of overpopulation, including hunger, poverty, economic disparity, and drug-related crime, Lang said.
The city's overpopulation crisis shows no sign of easing. The Manila population is expected to double in size by 2025, adding 3.29 million more people, according to Time.
Lang worries that amid so many urgent global issues -- such as climate change and ocean pollution -- overpopulation does not get the public attention it deserves.
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