Press releases

Friday 01 Nov 2002

Action to prevent enviromental disaster in Central Asia signals positive outcome of first-ever Global Mountain Summit

Action to prevent a potentially devastating environmental disaster in one of the most densely populated areas of Central Asia was announced here in the final hours of the Bishkek Global Mountain Summit.
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, 1 November 2002 ? Action to prevent a potentially devastating environmental disaster in one of the most densely populated areas of Central Asia was announced here in the final hours of the Bishkek Global Mountain Summit.

The Chairman of the Summit, President of Kyrgyzstan, Askar Akaev, told journalists that the government of Norway has offered to help clean up dangerous nuclear waste dumps 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 from Kyrgyzstan into the fertile Fergana valley below (much of it in neighboring Uzbekistan), and home to almost 20 per cent of Central Asia?s entire population.

President Akaev said ?ten million people were threatened by the waste?, and that the support from Norway and other donors showed how ?attitudes were changing towards mountain countries.? He said The new initiative demonstrated ?an example of concrete action? as a result of the International Year of Mountains and the Bishkek Summit.

The meeting here in Bishkek, the first-ever Global Mountain Summit, ended today. It was organised by the government of Kyrgyzstan with support from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other partners.

As the culminating global event of the United Nations International Year of Mountains (IYM), a ?Bishkek Mountain Platform? document was unanimously adopted by what has been the largest ever gathering of governments, international organizations, NGOs and individuals concerned with mountain issues. The document will be forwarded to the United Nations General Assembly by the government of Kyrgyzstan.

The Platform, the main output of the Bishkek Summit, is designed to guide governments and everyone involved with mountain issues on future activities and actions in the 21st century. Its ultimate goal is to improve the livelihoods of mountain people, to protect mountain ecosystems and to use mountain resources more wisely.

At the global level, the Bishkek Platform supports the International Partnership for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions, agreed at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, as the framework to provide follow-up to the IYM.

A generous contribution by the governments of Italy and Switzerland will help FAO, as the lead agency of the IYM, and UNEP to ensure that follow-up institutional arrangements are made, including support to the proposed creation of a Network of Development Mountain States and Regions which forms part of the Partnership.

?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.

?The Bishkek Summit has been extremely rich in substance and represents the largest ever assembly of ideas, reviews and actions on mountain issues,? Kakakhel continued. ?By bringing the world?s mountain community together for the first time, the government of Kyrgyzstan has launched a critical process,? he said. ?Mountains are vital to all life on earth and to the well-being of people everywhere. What happens on the highest peak affects life in the lowlands, in freshwaters and even in the seas.?

Mountain areas cover 26 percent of the Earth?s land surface and host 12 percent of its people. They 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, climate change, natural hazards and other forces are threatening the complex webs of life that mountains support.

Over 600 people from sixty countries have been meeting here for four days in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, one of the most mountainous countries in the world.
Note to Editors
For information on the Bishkek Summit see
http://www.globalmountainsummit.org/

Produced as a contribution to the Bishkek Summit, the recently launched UNEP-WCMC Mountain Watch report, the first map-based assessment of environmental change in mountain areas, is on the Web at http://www.unep-wcmc.org/mw_bishkek_presspack .

For more information please contact: Robert Bisset, UNEP press officer and Bishkek conference spokesperson on Mobile: +336 22 72 58 42, email: robert.bisset@unep.fr, or Eric Falt, Spokesperson/Director of UNEP Division of Communications, on Tel: 254 2 623292, Mobile: 254 (0) 733 682656, email: eric.falt@unep.org,

For information about the nuclear waste clean-up in Kyrgystan, contact Ilyas Bekbolotov, Press Secretary to the President on email: b_ilyas@hotmail.com

UNEP News Release 2002/Bishkek Final
Friday 01 Nov 2002
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