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World Water Day is observed on March 22 every year. The day to recognize the importance of earth's most precious natural resource was proposed 20 years ago at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. While we often take water for granted, many cannot. And water plays a role in almost everything we do. We drink it, wash in it, play in it, generate power with it, irrigate crops with it, travel and transport goods on it, fight fires with it, and worship with it. Gathered here are images of water from the last year in all its uses, in scarcity and in abundance. -- Lane Turner (48 photos total)
A child bathes from a public tap in his neighborhood in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on March 6, 2012. A UNICEF report says unhygienic conditions cause an estimated 1. 2 million child deaths before the age of five from diarrhea worldwide every year. The report says in urban areas access to improved water and sanitation is not keeping pace with population growth. (Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press)

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diversity is everywhere in India, from its religions and languages to its economy, and climates. The second-most populous nation in the world, India is home to more than 1.2 billion people. Most are Hindu, but seven other religions -- including Islam, Christianity and Sikhism -- make up nearly 20 percent of the population. January 26 will be India's 62nd Republic Day, marking the date in 1950 when the country's constitution came into force. Collected here are recent photos from across the vast nation, offering only a small glimpse of the people and diversity of India. [41 photos]

Indian soldiers from the Border Security Forces atop camels stand at attention in front of the Presidential Palace during a ceremony in preparation for the annual Beating Retreat in New Delhi, India, on January 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

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A park ranger stands at the site of a new eruption in Virunga National Park near Goma, on November 24, 2011. Almost three weeks after a fissure opened amidst dense flat forest, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park has seen an increasing number of tourists seeking to be guided on treks to witness [...]

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Often in the Big Picture we feature "slice of life" photography originating from around the world, brought to us by photographers based in those countries who work for the Associated Press, Reuters and Getty Images. The photographs are often simple and show daily life in many places that we might not be able to experience in any other way except through those photographers' documentation. The images themselves are somewhat universal - they show us where people live and how people live, sometimes not so differently than we do ourselves. -- Paula Nelson (35 photos total)
Three-year-old Nadia Nassrallah eats her breakfast in from of her home in a slum on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, Oct. 4, 2011. (Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press)

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Hindus around the world -- from South Asia to Britain and beyond -- observe many colorful holidays throughout the year. Recent festivals include the Ganesh Chaturthi, celebrating the birth of the elephant-headed deity, and Janamashtami, the birth anniversary of the god Krishna. The range of experiences at these celebrations runs from joyfully loud and spectacular to solemn and contemplative. Each devotee celebrates in a distinct, personal way even while joining the larger community. Hinduism is the world's third-largest religion; the majority of its one billion adherents are concentrated in India, but sizable communities exist all over the globe. I hope you enjoy these vivid, intriguing glimpses of Hindu festivals photographed over the past few months. [39 photos]

Devotees carry an idol of Hindu elephant god Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, into the water from Girgaum Chowpatty beach before immersing it in the waters of the Arabian Sea on the last day of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai, on September 11, 2011. Idols are taken through the streets in a procession accompanied by dancing and singing, to be immersed in a river or the sea symbolizing a ritual send-off of his journey towards his abode in "Kailash", while taking away with him the misfortunes of all mankind. (Reuters/Vivek Prakash)

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