Precipitous mountain roads, specially modified bikes, and deadly consequences. Simon Maybin spends time with the young men who race down the steep roads of Colombia’s second city Medellin. Marlon is 16 and he’s a gravitoso - a gravity biker. He hooks onto the back of lorries or buses climbing the precipitous roads to reach high points around the city. Then, he lets gravity do its thing and - without any safety gear - hurtles back down the roads, trying to dodge the traffic. This year, two of his friends have died gravity biking and Marlon has had a near-fatal accident. But he’s not quitting. So what drives young men like him to take their lives into their own hands? And what’s being done to stop more deaths? Produced and presented by Simon Maybin.
Marawi: the story of the Philippines’ Lost City
Marawi in the southern Philippines is a ghost town. In 2017, it was taken under siege for five months by supporters of Islamic State who wanted to establish a caliphate in the predominantly Muslim city. After a fierce and prolonged battle, the Philippine army regained control – but Marawi was left in ruins. Two years on, reconstruction has barely begun and over 100,000 people are yet to return home.
Philippines Correspondent Howard Johnson tells the story of Marawi from the siege to the present day, through the eyes of two of its residents: a Muslim who risked his life to save his community and a Catholic priest who was held hostage by extremists.
Produced by Josephine Casserly.
Image: Grand Mosque pockmarked by bullet holes and artillery fire in the Most Affected Area (MAA) or Ground Zero of the siege of Marawi
Credit: Howard Johnson/BBC
Kazakhstan: Port in the Desert
China’s New Silk Road reaches across all parts of the globe; building roads, bridges and towering cities where before there were none. In Kazakhstan, China’s neighbour to the west, this vast project has created a port. But there’s no water there, just desert… and trains running all the way from China through to Europe and the Middle East. Meeting the hundreds of shoppers and traders, it’s astonishing to think that just a few years ago this border was a closed military zone - the frontier between two giant communist states. But turn the clock back further and we discover this part of Central Asia has always been closely tied to China, in languages, culture and contested history. For Crossing Continents, Rose Kudabayeva returns to her home country Kazakhstan, to meet people living along the New Silk Road and record how their world is changing.
Produced by Monica Whitlock
A BlokMedia production
Romania's killer roads
Everybody in Romania knows someone who has died in a road accident. The country has the highest road death rate in the European Union – twice the EU average and more than three times that in the UK. A young businessman, Stefan Mandachi, has built a metre long stretch of motorway near his home in the rural north-east of the country, as a visual protest against political inaction and corruption. For Crossing Continents, Tessa Dunlop travels to one of Romania’s poorest regions, Moldova, to meet this new champion of road safety, and the families who have paid the highest price for the country’s poor transport networks.
Producer, John Murphy.
Barbuda: Storms, Recovery and ‘Land Grabs’
Who will shape the future of the hurricane-hit, tropical isle of Barbuda? In 2017, category-5 hurricane Irma devastated much of Barbuda's 'paradise' landscape, and its infrastructure. The national government – based on the larger, neighbouring island of Antigua – evacuated the population of some 1800 people. But within days, although the people weren’t allowed to return, bulldozers were clearing ancient forest to build an international airport. Critics called this another case of, 'disaster capitalism' – governments and business taking advantage of catastrophe to make a profit.
Barbuda has long been viewed as ripe for more tourism – Hollywood actor Robert De Niro is part of a commercial enterprise working on the opening of an exclusive resort. One of the obstacles to widespread development has been the island’s unique system of tenure – all land has been held in common since the emancipation of Barbuda’s slave population in the 19th century. But last year the government repealed the law guaranteeing those communal rights, partly to attract investment to the island. Meanwhile, although the hurricane season began on June 1st, families are still living in tents.
With the main opportunity to earn revenue coming from tourism, the national government is thoroughly irked by Barbudans' resistance to profit from top-dollar visitors. It argues that projects can be environmentally-friendly. But in the wake of Irma, the impact of climate change hangs heavily on Barbuda. How can this pristine island preserve its future and still develop the economy?
Presenter / producer: Linda Pressly