Deep impact: Five young Asians’ climate change ordeal

(Clockwise from top left) Meera Sanjiv, Ms Karlette Vasquez, Ms Shristi Karki, Issac Gao and Ms Sumarni Laman. PHOTOS: NINA SUBRAMANI, KARLETTE VASQUEZ, DESMOND FOO, FELINE LIM, SUMARNI LAMAN

Five young people from Asia tell The Straits Times about the impact of climate change on their lives.

Meera Sanjiv, 15

Meera Sanjiv has coughing episodes because of polluted air. PHOTO: NINA SUBRAMANI

“If we struggle to breathe, what’s the point? So many people, including me, are being affected by air pollution, but we shouldn’t be.”

Where: Chennai, India
What: Air pollution

Children playing on a field in northern Chennai, with smokestacks in the background. PHOTO: LOGESHWARAN
  • Meera has coughing episodes when exposed to unhealthy air while her mother, Ms Nina Subramani, 51, a high school teacher, has chronic asthma.
  • During Deepavali 2022, smoke from firecrackers caused air pollution to spike. Meera and her mother had to endure stinging eyes, scratchy throats and headaches.

Karlette Vasquez, 19

The home of Ms Karlette Vasquez’s relatives was destroyed by a typhoon. PHOTO: COURTESY OF KARLETTE VASQUEZ

“I’m most worried about the livelihood of the community because it’s really hard to get out of this. This was really devastating.”

Where: Surigao del Norte, the Philippines
What: Super Typhoon Rai, 2019

A family member carrying out repairs at Ms Karlette Vasquez’s relatives’ house (far left) the day after a typhoon hit Surigao City. PHOTO: COURTESY OF KARLETTE VASQUEZ
  • Ms Vasquez moves between Siargao Island, where her family is, and Surigao City, where her relatives live. The house on Siargao Island was destroyed by the storm surge.
  • The typhoon wiped out about 70 per cent of coconut trees on the island, which the majority of islanders relied on for their livelihoods, alongside tourism.

Shristi Karki, 22

Ms Shristi Karki said the proliferation of garbage is an issue in Nepal and adds to the flooding woes. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

“Climate change… will bring damage in our daily life. We’ll have problems with access to clean water, clean air, and air and water are the basic components of our daily life.”

Where: Itahari, Kathmandu, Nepal
What: Floods from unusually heavy rain

Ms Shristi Karki’s family’s provision shop was hit by floodwaters in Itahari, Nepal, in October last year. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SHRISTI KARKI
  • Unseasonable heavy rain and issues like the lack of proper drainage infrastructure frequently cause flash floods in Nepal.
  • Ms Shristi’s home and her family’s provision shop in Itahari were affected by flood waters during unexpected heavy rain in October 2021. The sediments and pollutants present brought about skin disease.

Isaac Gao, 11

Issac Gao, 11, tested positive for dengue together with his mother in April 2022. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

“During the circuit breaker, we burnt mosquito coils because the mosquitoes were annoying. Now we burn them to not end up dying.”

Where: Singapore
What: Dengue

Aedes mosquitoes breed faster in warmer weather, raising the risk of dengue. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
  • Issac’s symptoms included high fever and stinging rashes all over his body. His mother was hospitalised with severe dengue.
  • Since the dengue virus has four strains, a person can be infected four times. Warmer weather allows the Aedes mosquito to breed faster.

Sumarni Laman, 26

Ms Sumarni Laman distributing masks to a group of children in a village in Kalimantan in 2019. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SUMARNI LAMAN

“It’s very, very heartbreaking to see these people – who are poor and do not have proper access to healthcare – suffer because of environmental destruction and… climate change. So that’s why we volunteer to help the people in our communities.”

Where: Kalimantan, Indonesia
What: Forest fires and haze

Aerial view of a burning forest in Kapuas Hilir, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, in 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
  • She volunteers with Youth Act Kalimantan in firefighting and disaster relief efforts in the Kalimantan region, the epicentre of forest fires due to the clearing of peatlands in 2019, which caused haze to wrap the region, including Singapore.
SPH Brightcove Video
Young people from across Asia describe how they have been affected by climate change.

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