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International Mountain Day (IMD) 2016 showcased the diversity and cultures of mountain peoples.

IMD 2016 took place under the theme, ‘Mountain Cultures: celebrating diversity and strengthening identity'.

The UN Environment Programme launched a report, ‘Waste Management Outlook for mountain regions: sources and solutions,’ which highlights growing waste management challenges in mountain regions from mining and tourism pollution and city expansion.

11 December 2016: International Mountain Day (IMD) 2016 showcased the diversity and cultures of mountain peoples. The Day is convened annually on 11 December; IMD 2016 took place under the theme, ‘Mountain Cultures: celebrating diversity and strengthening identity.’

IMD raises awareness of the importance of mountain landscapes to people and the environment. The Day highlights the opportunities for and challenges to sustainable mountain development as is called for by two targets under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 on Life on Land. SDG target 15.1 calls to “by 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements; and SDG target 15.4 calls to, “by 2030, ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity, in order to enhance their capacity to provide benefits that are essential for sustainable development.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), mountains cover 22% of the world’s land surface, are home to 13% of the world’s population, and provide 60% to 80% of the world’s freshwater. The Day highlights the role of mountains in providing ecosystem services, and promotes positive change for mountain peoples and ecosystems. In a press release, FAO highlighted the ways mountain peoples have maintained deep connections with their environment and ensured natural resource stewardship, including through climate change adaptation approaches and sophisticated land-use systems, among other innovations.

Mountain Partnership Secretariat coordinator, Thomas Hofer notes that, “the day is a chance to reflect on how we all depend on mountains, for water, food, biodiversity, timber and energy, […] but it is also an opportunity to highlight the plight of mountain peoples, among the world’s poorest and hungriest, and focus on the opportunities for including action to support them in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.” Hofer recommended, inter alia: ensuring that economic benefits from tourism remain in local communities and are equitably distributed; providing incentives for protecting mountain ecosystems, goods and services; and maintaining local mountain cultures and knowledge.

The Day is an opportunity to highlight the plight of mountain peoples, among the world’s poorest and hungriest, and focus on the opportunities for including action to support them in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, said Thomas Hofer, Mountain Partnership Secretariat coordinator.

International Union for Conservation of Nature/World Commission on Protected Areas (IUCN/WCPA) Mountains Specialist Group Chair, Peter Jacobs, said the WCPA’s Mountains Specialist Group is focusing on identifying priority mountains areas for biodiversity conservation, explaining that “of over 4,000 Key Biodiversity Areas in mountains only 20% are completely and formally protected.” In a message, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICMOD) Director-General highlighted ICMOD’s commitment to serve mountain communities in the Hindu Kush Himalayas to enhance economic, social and environmental well-being.

On IMD, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment) launched a report, ‘Waste Management Outlook for mountain regions: sources and solutions,’ which highlights growing waste management challenges in mountain regions from mining and tourism pollution and city expansion. The report provides examples of contaminants from mining extraction that are found over 1,000 kilometers downstream from their source, affecting fish, forests and human health, and four million tons of debris that entered the Kathmandu Valley in April 2015 after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal. UN Environment Chief Erik Solheim stressed the importance of sound waste management in mountainous areas, underscoring that “inadequate treatment of disposal of waste in mountains has…far-reaching impact.” The report highlights good practices to avoid overwhelming local waste infrastructure, such as policies that encourage tourists to bring back their waste and national park fees that contribute to bins and promoting waste management among the mountaineering community.

IMD celebrations around the world included: a Youth Awareness Environmental Forum on the Godawari Area in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley; an event on the role of the páramos, high alpine tundra ecosystems, in Colombia’s water regulation and supply; and a series of articles to mark IMD by the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) highlighted a story on climate change-related hazards in Bhutan’s high altitude ecosystems, which are experiencing shrinking glaciers and water reservoirs, expanding populations of insects and diseases and more frequent flash floods and landslides, among other impacts. FAO hosted a ‘Mountain Cultures’ photo contest to promote the diversity of mountain identities and help ensure that indigenous rights are recognized and traditional mountain ways endure. [FAO Press Release] [IUCN Press Release] [UNEP Press Release] [ICMOD Director General Message] [FAO Mountain Day Website] [FAO News Stories on IMD] [Map of International Mountain Day Celebrations] [FAO Photo Contest]


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