> 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 mountainous areas > 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 million people. > > 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 the Po. > > 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 recreational activities, > such as skiing, and home-building in prime mountain land. > > ? Great Smokey Mountains in the eastern United States, because of air > pollution. > > ? 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 > poverty. > > ? 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