October 6

Governments pledge to avert Central Asia disasters at UNbacked mountain summit

The Global Mountain Summit in Kyrgyzstan culminated today with agreement on action to clean up dangerous nuclear waste dumps in one of the most densely populated areas of Central Asia, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), a key organizer of the event. The Government of Norway offered to help with the effort, which will centre around disposal sites near the town of Maily-Suu, high up in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. The waste stored there threatens to spill into rivers that flow from Kyrgyzstan into the Fergana valley below, which is home to almost 20 per cent of all Central Asians. “Ten million people were threatened by the waste,” said Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, hailing the support from Norway and other donors. The new initiative, he added, demonstrates “an example of concrete action” achieved through the International Year of Mountains and the Bishkek Summit. Mountain areas, which cover 26 per cent of the Earth’s land surface and host 12 per cent of its people, provide essential resources for both mountain and lowland people, including fresh water for at least half of humanity, critical reserves of biodiversity, food, forests and minerals. According to the Bishkek Platform adopted by the Summit, climate change, natural hazards and other forces are threatening the complex webs of life that mountains support. The Platform aims to improve the livelihoods of mountain people, protect mountain ecosystems and optimize the use of mountain resources. “Mountains are vital to all life on earth and to the well-being of people everywhere said UNEP Deputy Executive Director Shafqat Kakakhel. “What happens on the highest peak affects life in the lowlands, in freshwaters and even in the seas.” read more