Making a mountain out of a summit

A Norwegian operation will clean up radioactive waste dumped near a mountain population in Central Asia. The Scandinavian country volunteered its services at the first global mountain summit held in Kyrgyzstan.

At the UNEP Mountain Summit in Bishkek, Norway offered to help clean up nuclear waste dumped near the town of Maily-Suu, high up in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. The waste, stored in deteriorating tailings dams, threatens to spill into rivers that flow into the Fergana valley below, home to almost 20% of Central Asia’s population.

The President of Kyrgyzstan, Askar Akaev, said that up to 10 million people were threatened by the waste, and that the support from Norway showed how attitudes were changing towards mountain countries. He praised the action as the latest success for the International Year of Mountains.

At the UNEP Summit, the ‘Bishkek Mountain Platform’ adopted by delegates will guide future government activities, with the aim of improving the livelihoods of mountain people, protecting mountain ecosystems and managing mountain resources. Mountains cover 26% of the Earth’s land surface, host 12% of the world’s population and provide half of all freshwater.

“The Bishkek Platform is an important document that will help, among other things, to ensure environmentally sound management in mountain regions, particularly in developing countries,” said Shafqat Kakakhel, UNEP’s Deputy Executive Director. Whatever happens on the highest peaks affects life in the lowlands, in freshwaters and even in the seas, argues Kakakhel.

UNEP has just launched a Mountain Watch report, the first map-based assessment of environmental change in mountain areas.

The Philippines recently persuaded sixty clergy members to Adopt-A-Mountain (see related story).

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