MUST ENSURE MOUNTAIN REGIONS PROVIDE THEIR RICHES FOR
NEW YORK, 11 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the United Nations Year of Mountains (2002):
At once humbling and uplifting, few sights in nature are as awe inspiring as mountains. But, too often, mountains are also perceived as remote from the day-to-day concerns of humankind. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mountains are home to communities worldwide and to important cultural traditions. They shelter vast reserves of biodiversity. They provide vital resources such as water and wood, contributing to the livelihoods of a significant portion of the world's population.
Mountain environments face increasing risks. Satellite imagery shows significant loss of mountain forests in the last 10 to 20 years. Mountain fauna and flora are endangered by habitat loss and climate change. River systems and watersheds are being degraded and polluted. Indigenous traditions and knowledge are disappearing. The cost to communities and businesses has been high: declining tourism; dwindling water supplies and fisheries; and the reduced hydropower and blocked reservoirs that are caused by siltation or poor watershed management. There is an urgent need to strike a balance between development and preservation.
The United Nations has proclaimed 2002 as the International Year of Mountains in order to increase awareness of mountain ecosystems, to defend the cultural heritage of mountain communities, and to promote the conservation and sustainable development of mountain regions. One key to lasting solutions will be effective cooperation between mountain communities, tourism operators, environmentalists and the private sector. Everyone has a stake in ensuring that the world's mountain regions continue to provide their riches for many generations to come; this is a challenge the world's peoples can and must scale together.
* *** *