> World's mountains overused, abused, U.N.
> report finds
> By Gerald Nadler
> The Associated Press
> NEW YORK ? Wars, pollution and logging
> are despoiling the world's mountain ranges,
> with the Alps of Europe and the
> Himalaya-Karakorum-Hindu Kush chain of
> Asia the most threatened, according to a
> U.N. study released yesterday.
> The once pristine mountain valleys of the
> Alps "are now a litter of cable cars, ski lifts,
> tourists facilities and car parks," said the
> report by the Tokyo-based United Nations
> University. Climbing expeditions have made
> Mount Everest "the highest garbage dump
> in the world," said Jack Ives, a professor at
> Carleton University in Canada who
> contributed to the report.
> Other ranges, including the Rockies,
> Cascades and Olympics, are being hurt by
> new home building, skiing and other
> recreational activities, as well as industrial pollution
from toxic mine tailings, the
> report said.
> Mountains are the "water towers of the world," supplying
water to more than half
> the world's population, but 23 of the world's 27 current
conflicts ? from
> Afghanistan to Chechnya and Kashmir ? are being fought in
> and are destroying the environment, the study said.
> Canada's first national park, Banff, faces serious danger
of being overdeveloped,
> Ives said.
> But commercial and illegal logging and slash-and-burn
farming by poor people
> living in mountain areas are the real mountain ravagers,
destroying the forests
> and increasing the chances of avalanches and landslides,
fires and famines, the
> report said.
> "Illegal logging is going on through the forest areas to
an extent that is
> impossible to calculate," Ives said. "Poor Third World
countries sell their forests
> because they are desperate to raise money."
> The United Nations has designated 2002 the International
Year of Mountains,
> with the goal of alleviating the crippling poverty among
mountain people and
> spotlighting the importance of mountains as the source of
water and rich plant
> and animal life.
> Mountains and highlands cover about a quarter of the
globe's land surface and
> are home to 10 percent of the world's population, or 600
> Ives said "the threat of water pollution stemming from
developments of all kinds
> ? including mass tourism ? is growing in the Alps," which
supply four major
> European rivers ? the Rhine, the Rhone, the Danube and
> Mountains are the major fault lines of today's wars,
partly because many of the
> natural boundaries they form became national borders.
> ? The Himalayan crest forms the boundary between India
and China, which
> fought a border war.
> ? In Kashmir, the Himalayan frontier between India and
Pakistan is a flash point.
> ? In the Caucasus Mountains, Russia is fighting its
second war against Chechen
> separatists in a decade.
> ? The mountainous Balkans were aflame with a decade of
war between the
> Serbs and the Croats, Bosnians and Slovenians.
> ? The Hindu Kush in Afghanistan, the Karakorum and
western Himalayan range
> embracing Pakistan's northern areas are near total
disaster because of poverty,
> drought, deforestation and actions by military and
repressive governments, the
> report said.
> "It was convenient 150 years ago to define these
boundaries in no-man's land,"
> Ives said. "But the world has changed, and we find
important mineral and waters
> resources in those mountains."
> "We need to develop resource-management policies and to
help the poor people
> in the mountains, because this is the source of so much
of the conflict."
> Eight other mountain ranges in Europe, Asia and North
America were also cited
> as under great stress.
> ? The Rockies and Coast ranges of western North America,
which includes the
> Cascades and Olympics, due to increasing pressure from
> such as skiing, and home-building in prime mountain land.
> ? Great Smokey Mountains in the eastern United States,
because of air
> ? Amber Mountains in Madagascar, where 80 percent of
forests have been lost
> to farming, mining and charcoal production.
> ? Snowy Mountains of Australia, where 250 plant species
were threatened by a
> series of warm winters.
> ? Western Carpathians/Tatra Mountains in the Slovak
Republic and Poland,
> affected by air pollution and growth of tourism from
surrounding urban areas.
> ? Sierra Chincua in Mexico, winter home of the monarch
butterfly. The forest is
> being lost to logging and farming.
> ? Pamir mountains in Tajikistan. Civil war has led to
widespread devastation and
> ? Hengduan mountains in southwest China. A ban on logging
and a push to
> develop tourism threaten mountain cultures.
> The United Nations created U.N. University in 1973 to
promote research into
> global issues such as the environment.
> Information from Reuters is included in this report.
> Copyright © 2002 The Seattle Times Company