A Geospatial Analysis of Geohazards and Settlements in the Philippines

A Geospatial Analysis of Geohazards and Settlements in the Philippines

Organisation: University College London (United Kingdom)

Publication Date: 04/07/2017

Description

The risks due to disasters and climate change ought to be communicated properly to decision-makers and the public in the Philippines. And one of the best ways of communicating risk is through maps. Through a series of maps, I attempt to quickly show the general conditions of risk in the country. For decades, decision-makers have generally decided in favour of relocation, despite the fact that there are other hazards in the relocation areas. Furthermore, services and opportunities are usually lacking in the far-flung relocation sites; such condition increases the vulnerability of the displaced populations. In turn, the overall risk is increased and merely shifted geographically. The primary insight that I would like to convey through the visualisation and the article is this: there are no completely safe places in the Philippines. There are only places of varying risks, and the people's capacity to adapt. The best use case of the visualisation is on social media in the Philippines, where people prefer to read and share quick snapshots of information. Another important use case is in the discussions of Philippine decision makers, where executive briefs should be fortified with visuals that easily provide insight. In the past, the maps were traditionally available in highly-technical and inaccessible databases and data portals in government websites. In contrast, the map formats I created (in gif and jpg) are easier to view, understand, and share. Hence, insights on risk are faster to communicate to both leaders and stakeholders.

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

The highlight of the project is the critical, computational, and creative method of doing cartography in such a manner that can influence collective choices. Such approach can be seen in terms of its data sources, map design, and communicative potential. First, the mapmaking was dependent on both open and closed data. While it was very beneficial to utilise open datasets from public agencies such as USGS and NOAA, it was also necessary to take the necessary step of processing and reformatting the static and jpeg maps from Philippine government agencies. Using official sources, whether in open or closed format, is necessary to enable the public and decision-makers to trust the message conveyed by the information. The issue was a critical point in the cartographic process. Next, the map design heavily relied on processing large amounts of geospatial data. Through the use of Geographic Information Systems, the data from the various sources were indexed, cleaned, and represented with consistency. Behind the visualisation are open-format, spatially-referenced data (shapefile format), which can be used and revised when necessary. This computational aspect of the process ensured the accuracy and reliability of the geospatial data. Finally, the information design used in the mapmaking was done in such a way that can easily capture the attention of busy audiences and executives. By rendering the maps in popular and easily-distributable formats, it is hoped that the mileage and reuse of the visualization will be far and wide. Through critical, computational, and creative cartography, it is hoped that the visualization can encourage decision-makers and the public to move away from a reactionary paradigm of relocation to a proactive paradigm of reducing risks in existing and emerging settlements.

Technologies used for this project:

The tools used in the projects were straightforward. First, an open-source Geographic Information System (GIS) named Quantum GIS (Quantum GIS) was employed to index, clean, georeference, build, and visualise the spatial data. Next, the final touches on the typography and composition of the cartography were done in Adobe Photoshop.
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