epa Feature Archive 2015
Likay is a popular form of folk theater in Thailand. The actors, both male and female, wear flamboyant costumes decorated with glitter sequins and colorful make-up. They perform on temporary stages, consisting of garishly painted backdrops. The Likay plot repertoire is based on traditional folk tales. Performances are always embellished with humour and happy endings. In larger cities like Bangkok, the number of Likay folk troupes has diminished in recent years as a result of a dwindling crowd of spectators. But the once celebrated performing arts form remains popular in rural areas, and features at fairs, festivities and Buddhist temple ceremonies.
At the Child Haematology and Stem Cell Transplant department of Szent Istvan and Szent Laszlo Unified Hospitals in Budapest, young leukemia patients, who could not be helped by chemotherapy or radiation therapy, need to be treated with bone marrow or stem cell transplants. The patients - lacking an adequate immune system - are kept in a sterile isolation booth for a period of two to three weeks after the procedure, during which the transplanted bone marrow becomes functional. Forty to fifty life-saving interventions on children are performed annually at the Budapest hospitals. The Demeter Foundation operates apartments on hospital grounds that provide accommodation to the parents or relatives of young stem cell recipients during their treatment.
In October 2015, about 1,300 migrants are evacuated from the Jean-Quarre high school in Paris and dispatched all over France to several shelters. With the support of French far-left movements and organizations, most of these migrants start occupying the abandoned building in mid-summer after being evacuated from various areas of the French capital. The high school, named after the French communist resistant Jean Quarre executed by the Nazis in 1942, slowly becomes a Babel Tower where Arabic Persian, Urdu, Pashtun, Bambara and English are spoken. Most of these migrants have applied for recognition of their status as refugees. They’ve been through hell to reach a promised land, and the wait is now gnawing at them. The school is now locked up with chains.
With the consciousness of the world focused on the refugee influx into Europe the plight of many thousands of migrants in Johannesburg rises to the surface. The city, known by its African name, Egoli (City of gold), to many, is the end point of a journey from neighboring states like Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and further afield. Added to this, is the huge influx of rural South Africans. High on the list of places to stay is central Johannesburg with the high-rise apartments that are end point for many of their long journeys. A major issues however, is the approximate 400 'highjacked' buildings which are blocks of flats that have been taken over by criminal 'landlords' who then hire out living space to the migrants who have arrived in the city. Over the years of illegal occupation, the buildings fall into disrepair and are unsafe for human habitation.
In Thailand, the full ordination of women as Buddhist monastics is banned. Thai monks are forbidden by the Supreme Sangha Council to give ordination to women, despite attempts to do so. Despite the ban, there are more than 100 bhikkhuni, or female Buddhist monks, who live a monastic life in Thailand, fulfilling their spiritual aspirations in monasteries for bhikkhuni sanghas (female monk communities). Although not officially supported, they do receive support from many in the community. The first Thai female to be ordained a bhikkuni in the Theravada monastic lineage is Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, 70. She is abbess of the monastery Songdhammakalyani Bikkhuni Arama that her mother established as the first of its kind for women in Thailand, more than 50 years ago.
Think of black truffles and the Perigord in the French region of Dordogne immediately comes to mind, being home to one of the most commercially valuable species of the delicacy that was once described as ‘the diamond of the kitchen’. But a new source of wild truffles has now sprung up following a successful joint venture by South African farmers who have updated the description to ‘black diamonds’. Volker Miros started research in 2002 into the viability of truffle farming after discovering they were sourced by the Khoi many hundreds of years ago. The European delicacy is one of the most expensive edible mushrooms in the world but also very technical and difficult to grow. After thirteen years of research and development, the first twenty five black truffles from inoculated host trees were discovered by trained truffle dogs in the Langkloof in June 2015, thus marking a breakthrough in its successful cultivation.
Thailand's 'wet' fresh food markets are part of a centuries-old tradition where the fresh product has been sold for cheap prices. With wet and grimy floors under the fresh meat, fish and vegetables, the markets are spiced by the heady smells of raw meat, fresh fish, vegetables and fresh made food. There is also a busy community feel in the markets, held in narrow streets or covered halls, where a bustling morning push for food supplies among vendors and shoppers mixes with the calls of vendors and smells of fresh goods. But while much fresh food wet markets have disappeared, others have persisted, their advantage, to offer a traditional and cultural experience and the ability to offer cheaper prices than modern stores.
Although the elephant has been the national animal symbol of Thailand since 2001, for the villagers of Ban Ta Klang, known as the Elephant Village, the mammals are something more than just symbolic. The locals earn their living by farming and weaving and keep the elephants as pets – literally treating them like family members. The villagers are descendants of Kui ethnic people who settled along the Thai-Cambodian border and the ethnic minority are experts since ancient times for their skills in capturing wild elephants, training and raising them. Close to the village is the Elephant Study Centre. It is primarily founded to encourage drifted mahouts and their elephants to return back home – keeping them away from begging on touristic cities - and support them for a better life.
Children are trained and used as jockeys in Sumbawa island for popular horse races, a traditional sport in the area and a cultural heritage which continues to be preserved by the people of Bima. The children's training starts from early age. The horseback riding and horse handling ability is passed on from parent to child, as is the feeling of excitement and honor of competing in these races as well. The child jockeys are traditionally trained to race with skill and guts, but they do not wear proper safety equipment. They ride without a saddle or footwear, and often no helmet, so thick socks, long sleeves and a full face mask are used as protection from flying debris. Accidents happen, and some cause severe injuries and the risk of the child jockey being trampled by a horse.
Japanese mountain asceticism, called shugendo, was once prevalent throughout Japan. The practitioners, called yamabushi, practice a variety of austerities and religious rituals that are a mixture of Buddhism and Shinto. According to Fumihiro Hoshino, a leader in the revival of shugendo culture, the number of practitioners once reached 180,000 during the Edo Period. It fell into rapid decline in the 1870s when the Japanese government outlawed the ascetic practices during a period of religious reformation. The shugendo tradition is now undergoing a revival, as a growing number of educated urban people are seeking spiritual development through contact with nature. The interest in shugendo is also part a larger social trend in Japan of renewed interest in traditional cultural.
After Germany's surrender ending World War II in Europe, the 6th of August 1945 should become a crucial date for mankind and warfare would never be the same again. US troops dropped the first atomic bomb codenamed 'Little Boy' on Hiroshima, Japan. The bomb would immediately kill some 80,000 people - a death toll that should rise to 140,000 by the end of 1945. A week later, Japan's emperor Hirohito announced the country's unconditional surrender, which led to the end of World War II also in the Pacific. But the drop of Little Boy on Hiroshima had sung in the age of fear of nuclear overkill. On 06 August 2015, survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bombing and the world will observe the 70th anniversary of the first ever atomic bombing of a city.
Longzaitian Shadow Puppet Troupe consists of almost 50 members who look like children but are actually dwarfs with an average age of 22 and height of 1.26 meters. Dwarfs have traditionally been viewed as disabled people in China and are often discriminated by mainstream society. Created in 2008, the troupe started out with less than ten members but gradually grew in fame and stature, drawing many other dwarfs from all parts of China. The troupe provides training, food, accommodation and income for the members as well as a sense of belonging and pride in their work preserving the ancient art of shadow puppetry. Within seven years, the troupe currently employs 88 dwarfs in China, freeing them of social exclusion that this minority suffers.
By all accounts, it was in late 2003 that then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided unilaterally to withdraw all of Israel's Jewish settlers and all of its army from the entire Gaza Strip. This came as a complete surprise to Israel's top army commanders and indeed the entire country. Sharon's decision was bold – to evacuate every single one of the some 10,000 Jewish settlers and dismantle sprawling military camps and remove all of the Israeli soldiers, amounting to about one division, providing security for the settlers. This decision was partially based on the fact that thousands of missiles fired from within the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip were landing in the settlements in Gush Katif and near the Israeli border, as well as inside Israeli border towns such as Sderot.
South Africa’s Eastern Cape offers a wide array of attractions, not least 800 kilometers of pristine coastline and wonderful beaches, but is also home to the Transkei: 45,000 square kilometers boasting one of the most beautiful and diverse rural landscapes in all Africa. The area has challenging cattle trails and single track paths that deny any form of transportation except the two wheel or 4 x 4 variety. Setting off into the Transkei quickly introduces the adventurous traveler to a world of breath-taking views, captivating terrain and an introduction into the rich culture of the Xhosa people that live there, much of which centers around the rituals which adolescent boys known as Abakhwethas have to complete in order to be accepted as men. This includes traditional circumcision, an ancient initiation rite of passage for Xhosa males.
Hungarian philologist and orientalist Sandor Korosi Csoma aka Alexander Csoma de Koros, author of the first Tibetan-English dictionary and grammar book lived in the Zangla Palace between 1823 and 1824 while he worked on his dictionary. The Csoma’s Room Foundation, an independent non-profit NGO, registered in Hungary, has been organising the renovation and conservation works of the Zangla Palace and nearby stupas since 2008, along with the building of a solar school construction with local materials in Zangla and the teaching in primary school and conversational English for local children.
As China develops and becomes more urbanized, farms around big cities like Beijing are moving away from pure agriculture to integrate more leisure and tourism activities to attract city dwellers wishing for a different experience. The recent inaugural Beijing Farm Festival is aimed at promoting agricultural tourism where many of the farms participating are large scale integrated farms that include theme parks, hotels, conference, wedding and even spa facilities. According to local reports, Beijing has 1,300 such agricultural cum leisure farms receiving millions of visitors per year. Visitors wishing to experience how traditional farming was done in the past would be hard-pressed to find them at these large scale modern farms.
The living history group ‘Regnum Hierosolimitanum’ re-enact the Battle of the Horns of Hattin over a three day period each July. The historic event is named after the nearby extinct volcano, the battle between the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and the forces of Saladin, the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, took place near Tiberias in present-day Israel on July 3 and 4 in the year 1187. The name Horns of Hattin originates from the double hill geographical feature that staged the battlefield that was within sight of the Sea of Galilee. Saladin and his Muslim armies scored the greatest military defeat of the crusader forces and thus removed their capability to wage war. As a direct result of this, Islamic forces once again became the supreme military power in the Holy Land.
'Kithul' treacle and jaggery, a sought after sweetener for Sri Lankan traditional sweetmeats, are products of high-risk and time consuming labor. The process which once was a robust cottage industry is gradually dying out due to the lack of Kithul palms as well as newer generation tappers. However this traditional industry is still alive in remote hamlets abutting forests where tappers like 42-year-old Dingiri Banda venture into the jungles to tap the wild palms. They trek long distances, prepare the tree by tying wild vines as hand and footholds, climb the palm, lightly tap the yet to bloom Kithul bud, cut off the top part and tie a pot to collect the slowly oozing sap.
In a complex and highly delicate operation, carried out with literally military precision, four wild Przewalski's horses embarked on a journey to their native steppes, the Gobi desert region of southern Mongolia. The project was first launched in 2011. In a collaboration between Prague Zoo and the Czech Army a fourth group of the rare breed was prepared for the arduous 24-hour-journey from the Kbely military air transportation base in Prague to Bulgan. The horses were moved from Prague Zoo to an acclimatization center in Dolni Dobrejov. Arriving at the Reserve in the middle of the night, the horses are let out into an acclimatization pen. All four mares will stay in their paddock for one year as part of their preparation for the return to the wild.
Leslie Hardy sets out for the water at sunrise each morning to check on his lobster traps. He returns in the mid afternoon to his oyster farm, helping his children and grandchildren tend to the tens of thousands of oysters in the bay his home overlooks. Fishing oysters and lobsters is hardwired into the Hardy bloodline. They established the family business over four generations ago on Lennox Bay in East Bideford, Prince Edward Island. In this age of automation and mechanically-processed foods, oysters are still a hands-on operation (albeit gloved hands). For the Hardy family, gone is the day of ‘tonging,’ a method of scooping oysters from the bay floor with a hand-operated dredging basket. Instead, the Hardys sort each and every oyster by hand.
'Natural and sympathetic looking' – this was the instruction to artist Eliasaf Myara to embellish dozens of new air-raid shelters on the Israeli border to Gaza. The Israeli Defense Ministry ordered the building of hundreds of small concrete protective shelters in all towns located near the Gaza Strip to protect its citizens from incoming rockets. The 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, also known as Operation Protective Edge, lasted 51 days and claimed the lives of about 2,203 Palestinians, 67 Israeli soldiers and 5 Israeli civilians, according to the Israeli Ministry of Defense. A report released by a UN investigative panel has accused both Israel and Palestinian armed groups of possible war crimes during 2014 Gaza conflict.
Iakovos is a regular man who used to belong to the middle class. He worked as a contractor at the Hellenic Post and later as a school guard. However, his economic situation changed dramatically during the Greek financial crisis. First he lost his job and later his mother who was his last living relative. Iakovos was forced to sell his properties at a very low price in order to pay his debts. To supplement his income he collects aluminum cans. Unable to make a living, every Friday he waits in line at the soup kitchen and sometimes the neighbors drop off some food. Since he has no income to spend, he’s trapped in his own house, spending most of the time watching TV. "When my mother was alive, things were very different. If someone told me three years ago I'd be collecting aluminum cans for a living, I wouldn't believe him."
Near Nelson Mandela's former Soweto house, township dog owners are taking their greyhounds and greyhound inter-breeds out into nearby fields to hunt rabbits, small antelope and other game in a traditional, subsistence form of dog hunting that has been in the blood of the hunters and their dogs for generations. Hunting with dogs in South Africa is illegal, and their poaching of small game and rabbits is seen as unacceptable by anti-poaching lobbyists. Further, greyhound support groups claim that the dogs are mistreated and left for dead after their hunting careers are finished. On Sundays upwards of 20 dogs and 10 hunters will combine to hire a local taxi to take them to hunting grounds to the West of Johannesburg.
Sprinkled throughout the back roads of America are the remains of Armageddon. Or what could have been Armageddon had the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union suddenly gone hot. The ghosts of America's atomic arsenal, from development to deployment, are accessible if you know where to look: in Arizona and South Dakota, decommissioned nuclear missiles still aim skyward; in Nevada and New Mexico, the remains of nuclear testing still scar the desert; and in Tennessee and Washington state, the facilities that developed uranium and plutonium for America's nuclear bombs gather dust. In the coming months, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park will be established - preserving once-secret sites where scientists raced to develop the world's first atomic bomb.
Kandanos, Distomo, Kaisariani and Korai 4. These are the names of four of 95 places in Greece that were haunted by the atrocities committed by Nazi troops during the German occupation from 1941 to 1945. Then, approximately 150,000 Greeks were violently killed, around 400,000 died of hunger while the total population decreased by 12 percent. Greece had 7.3 million inhabitants in 1940. According to a report by a special committee of the Greek Finance Ministry in May 2015, the claims for German reparations and a forced occupation loan amount to 280-340 billion euro. Relatives of the victims of the martyred villages are engaged in an ongoing legal battle to claim war reparations from Germany.
Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, is mostly known for its beautiful temples, shrines and gardens. But it is also a city of mystery, ghosts and legends. Certain areas of the city are believed to be repositories of energizing power, while other areas are believed to be inhabited by dark and mystery energies that may influence the lives of passersby. Some of the local residents are aware of these unseen forces and legends of Kyoto’s past and are active in promoting and preserving it. Behind closed doors this secret and ancient culture of the 1,200 year old city is still alive. It is a world that few outsiders become privy to.
Rooi Mpofu and Sherphard Sibanda are daily underground in a disused commercial gold mine near Soweto. They are two of an estimated 6,000 to 14,000 illegal miners working in South Africa with the majority in the 'Place of Gold' province. They were gold miners in their native Zimbabwe and moved to South Africa to find work after the mine they were working in closed. About 70 percent of illegal miners in South Africa are undocumented immigrants from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho. The men sell the gold to a middleman 30 percent below market price. This is barely enough to pay for their food and the rent for their tiny tin shack. The Chamber of Mines estimates that the value of illegally mined gold amounts to 72 billion ZAR (6 billion USD).
What is happening in the eastern Aegean has no precedent. Every night, at least five to seven boats loaded with Syrian and Afghan migrants start their journey from Bodrum, Turkey, and head to the Greek island of Kos. Dozens of migrants pile into boats which barely remain afloat and are equipped mostly with small engines or only with oars as they reach the coast every night. Almost all migrants arriving are hosted in an abandoned hotel without electricity and without appropriate hygienic conditions for about 15 days, which is the required time for their documents to be issued that will allow them to continue their journey via Athens to a northern European state.
Wildlife services along the California coast are being pushed to their limits following the unusually high number of stranded sea lions reported since January 2015. The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito alone has rescued a total of 1,071 animals of all species so far, of which 882 have been California sea lions. Every month sees a new record in sea lion 'stranding', mostly pups, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The center is both a rehabilitation and research facility, collecting data from both the living and deceased animals. Furthermore, it focuses on providing educational outreach to increase our overall understanding and awareness about the health of marine mammal populations and our ocean as a whole.
The Muktinath Temple area is situated in an extreme environment at an altitude of about 3,750 meters and surrounded by rugged, snow-clad mountains in the middle of the Himalayas. For both Buddhist and Hindu pilgrims the temple is first and foremost believed to be a place to get ‘Moksha’, liberation. The Mukitnath temple is also an attraction for the so-called Sadhus. These Holy Men from India and Nepal walk barefoot to the sacred shrine and mediate in extremely cold weather. When they arrive to the temple, some devotees sing religious songs and dance to celebrate the end of the pilgrimage. It is believed that after taking a holy bath in the icy cold water from Mt Annapurana cold waters salvation is given from all kind of sins committed in life.
In its 300-year history as go-to haven for religions on the run it is unlikely that Pennsylvania has attracted a community as colorful and spiritually diverse as the Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary. Hidden in the state's southern foothills, it bills itself as a 'safe and sacred ceremonial space for the modern practice of ancient religion.' There are a half-dozen or so full time residents who live under monastic vows of poverty and service but their community of support swells into the hundreds. Though the variety of faiths on display can appear disparate they are nearly all nature-based, putting these forested foothills at the center of their spirituality. The founder Orren Whiddon says their spiritual traditions are not meant as a counter-cultural statement or utopian vision.
About 11,000 brickfields are established across Bangladesh to meet the growing demand of construction works as urbanization rises rapidly in the country. Around 4,000 brick kilns burn nearly two million tons of coal and two million tons of firewood annually, according to the Bangladeshi Department of Environment. Male and female poor laborers migrate to brickfields to find seasonal jobs despite the hard conditions and low salaries. Brick workers still use 150-year-old techniques: collecting soil from humid areas, mixing it with water, molding the bricks by hand, drying them in the sun before they are fired in traditional kilns. Most of the brickfields are built without respecting clear environmental policies, exposing brick workers to major health risks.
China’s household registration system is meant to give citizens access to public services and is based on birthplace and family roots. However, it poses a problem for Chinese migrants as they can only live in these places as temporary residents. The circumstances of migrants living in Beijing differ but some face the same problems in terms of having limited access to public services, social benefits and education. Due to this children from migrant families have limited access to public schools and have to enroll in schools like Qiang Jian Wen Wu - a facility for children of low-income migrant workers. The parents pay reasonable fees for tuition yet the school’s financial resources are limited, its facilities and teaching materials are sub-standard.
South Africa experiences a wave of Xenophobia at present. This series of seven portraits, available in both black and white and color versions, are related to the on-going xenophoic attacks affecting South Africa. The portraits are of xenophobes living in the Jeppestown Men's hostel in downtown Johannesburg. The hostel was the source of attacks on foreign nationals over the past two weeks and was raided by South African Police forces and Army late 21 April 2015. Formally a miners’ hostel during the Apartheid era, the hostel is largely made up of members of the Zulu tribe. There is no proof that the xenophobes who where interviewed where involved in any attacks on foreigners.
The unfinished skyscraper David Tower in downtown Caracas made famous in the TV series 'Homeland' will be fully evacuated by the end of the year 2015. Its inhabitants will be relocated in social housing offered by the Nicolas Maduro government. David Tower was occupied by the poor of Caracas in 2007 hosting over 1,200 families until the end of 2014. The building has 45 floors yet no elevators, handrails or windows and does not match it's reputation of a crime and delinquency environment space. On the contrary the Torre David is now a quiet building inhabited by 300 families coexisting under an organized regime. The squatters of the building, which currently only occupy makeshift apartments up to the 13th floor, pay 250 bolivars per month to a cooperative and thus are entitled to piped water, electricity, cleaning the common spaces and even security.
The Sewol ferry was carrying 476 people on board when the ship sank on 16 April 2014 between the city of Incheon and the island of Jeju. Most of the passengers were teenagers on a school trip. Officially 295 people died, nine were declared missing. Some 12 months after, the parents of two Danwon High School students who went missing demonstrate every day in Seoul over government plans to salvage the sunken ship. They constantly think about their children trapped in the dark waters. The parents whose life is devastated continue claiming for their children to be pulled from the wreck in order to become 'bereaved families'.
The traditional Thai massage is the country's signature therapeutic treatment and this ancient technique is believed to date back to the 12th century. The Wat Po Thai Traditional Medical and Massage School opened in 1955 inside Wat Po, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. It was Thailand’s first government-approved medical school. The temple is considered to have been the country’s first public university. Nowadays, the school offers 15 massage courses. Students are trained by massage instructors in the basics of Thai massage as well as practical massage skills for relaxation and techniques to help alleviate muscular fatigue, ligament pain, tension and headache.
Every spring in central Nebraska, USA, as the last snow melts and the region’s fertile farmland is newly revealed, the Platte River Valley plays host to a remarkable gathering. Hundreds of thousands of Sandhill cranes, tired and hungry, with yellow eyes and bright red foreheads, pause here on their way north to the Arctic. For three weeks, they rest and refuel - fattening themselves on last-year’s corn and sleeping in the shallow braids of the Platte River. At four feet tall, they are one of the largest birds in North America. Bird watchers from across the country descend on this area to witness one of North America’s most dramatic migrations.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a home to three of the last five remaining rhino subspecies on the planet. Forty-year-old Sudan, the very last male now living, is deemed too old to mountain a female. Therefore the scientists and conservationists have concluded that the natural reproduction is impossible. They have decided to resort to artificial reproduction techniques as a last-ditch effort to save the northern whites from extinction. The scientists will start by harvesting egg and sperm samples to be stored until the in-vitro fertilisation techniques are developed and tested enough to be used with a surrogate southern white rhino, the only rhino subspecies that is non-endangered with an estimated population of 20,000 animals.
Kwon Yeong-Hak still crafts his bows in the traditional way carrying on a four generation family business. He is one of a few artisans who still produce the Gakgung. A frame for reshaping, hand saws, ropes and several other wooden tools are used to make the bows. Unlike most modern bows the Gakgung is all natural. Making a bow step by step takes about one year as it depends on temperature and climate. Kwon uses mulberry, oak and bamboo wood. He also needs the horn of a water buffalo, bladder of a croaker and spinal sinews of cattle. For the traditional Korean bow, the core consists of several layers of wood and horn that have been laminated with natural fish air bladder glue. In the final stage, the bow master grafts the bow with the thin inner bark of a white cherry.
Soho has for decades been the pulse of nightlife and vibrant red light district in central London with its entertainment, interesting boutiques and dining choices. The district and its Georgian houses resisted already development in the 70s but the current redevelopment plans could wash away its distinct character. Recently a growing number of campaigners echoed that the area is slowly losing its identity and supporters of Save Soho state the iconic venues are being replaced by coffee chains and posh pubs. It's latest victim is the 12 Bar Club - a key breaking ground for unsigned artists. The venue saw UK debuts from artists ranging from Jeff Buckley, Katie Melua or Adele. But it has now been adding to a long list of defunct iconic venues.
Customers to the Aurora Foge in Bangkok, Thailand, can experience a holy ritual ceremony which is believed to enhance auspiciousness for the clients' lives. The magical holy or Yantra Tattooing has been perfomed in many Southeast Asian countries and has traditionally been practiced by Buddhist monks, who tattooed the skin of warriors for protection and strength in battle by using long sharpened bamboo sticks. The Golden Face and Tongue Charming ritual is considered to make the worshipper appear charming and attractive, give them persuasive speaking skills and eloquence to help them in business negotiations, achieve their goals, and to bring them good luck and success in their love and personal life.
Fishing and fish drying has been a traditional source of livelihood in different parts of the Sundarbans delta for generations. Sundarban Islands is the largest delta in the world, which includes a unique mangrove ecosystem of approx. 10,000 km2 that spreads out over the borders of India and Bangladesh. Jambudwip Island has been one of the bases for fishery operations and fish-drying activity since the 1980s. The West Bengal Forest Department, on the orders of a Supreme Court decision from 1996, has banned fishing and fish drying activity in and around Jambudwip and other islands on the grounds that the gas generated by the drying of fish is allegedly harmful to the mangrove forests on Jambudwip but also for security concerns from e.g. smugglers.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 carrying 239 people disappeared an hour after taking off on 08 March 2014. A huge search operation in the southern Indian Ocean since then has failed to find the wreckage. On 24 March 2014, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak issued a statement saying that based on their investigation the missing flight had 'ended' in the southern Indian Ocean. Nearly a year later, many relatives of the Chinese passengers still do not believe their family members are dead. They use social media to connect with other relatives to talk about the event. On the Wechat group they share news about MH370 and pray for safe return of their loved ones.
Greece’s olive oil production is so prolific that even Italy absorbs three quarters of the 300,000 tons of high quality olive oil from the 132 million trees harvested. It comes as no surprise that three out of four trees cultivated in Greece are olive trees. Oil is produced by pressing olives, collected before or during maturity. There are modern oil press units operating as independent industries as well as small ones attached to farms where the processing of olives is done in the traditional way: weighing, washing, first pressing and second pressing. From these remains come a third press, creating special treatment pomace oils used to manufacture soap and fertilizer.
'Malanka' is one of the most popular traditional festivals in Western Ukraine celebrated every year between the 13-14 January, which is New Year's Eve in accordance with the old Julian calendar. During these two days of celebration, locals wear traditional masks and carnival costumes and stroll from house to house singing carols, wishing good luck, while playing pranks or performing short plays. Krasnoilsk has no local industry or factories so many of the villagers search for employment in neighboring countries. But every year they return home for 'Malanka', as for many it is part of their national identity and make-up, and the most important ceremonial event in their lives.
For four wintry months the diamond shaped island of Hokkaido in Japan’s north is a bleak and unyielding wilderness buried in snow, but as winter turns to spring and the April thaw arrives, the area transforms itself into a wildlife paradise as its multi-species indigenous population comes to life – metaphorically as well as literally speaking. Among the very first to show their heads are the red-crowned cranes, some of the rarest in the world, which begin nesting in the wetlands still iced up. Their chicks hatch in late April and May thus helping to increase the bird’s population beyond the 1,000 mark, after temporarily falling into near extinction.
A group of migrants from Afghanistan live these days on the Serb side of the Serbian-Hungarian border and wait for human smugglers to lead them across the border line into EU member state Hungary. Most of the migrants coming from Asia and Africa, escaping economic crisis, poverty or war, hope to reach the rich western countries of the European Union. As the Hungarian-Serbian border is identical with the border of the Schengen zone, Hungarian authorities patrol the frontier region permanently to prevent illegal migrants crossing the border. On a daily basis dozens of would-be immigrants are caught by border police and the voluntary organization of civil guards.
Train carriages are shattered over the landscape with their locomotives battered with trees and bushes, and wrecked buildings are now covered with damaged roof tiles spreading over the factory floor. The train station at Rayak was the Arab world’s first railway and flourishing train factory at the 1895. The track linked Lebanon with different Arabian countries and even with Paris, France. Unfortunately after the outbreak of Lebanon’s civil war in 1975, the railways were deserted and passenger services were interrupted two years later. While the most valuable equipment was transferred to a Syrian railway museum, much of it was destroyed during the Syrian conflict.
Once a year in early January, thousands of Cape Minstrels take to the streets of Cape Town to parade and perform a 300 year old traditional that is steeped in history. The Cape Minstrel Carnival stems from the early slave era of Cape Town when imported Malay slaves were given only one day off from work each year. To celebrate this fact they would dance and sing in the streets and paint their faces. One of the present day rituals stems from the early 1600s as they paint their faces so that their 'masters' could not recognise them. Today thousands of minstrels from different troupes gather to parade their new uniforms and celebrate the New Year.
Originally one of the world's first health resorts, the Dead Sea has a far from healthy future as its water levels continue to decline. In fact, it has been estimated that since the 1950s the water levels have dropped more than 40 meters. The dangerously low level has been attributed to an imbalance between the amount of incoming and outgoing water. The problem of the annual declining rate of 1.5 meters per year is due largely to the reduction of inflowing of water from the Jordan River. This has been attributed to the increased current consumption of water within the Jordan River water and irrigation drainage basin.