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Mountains play an essential role in supplying water, energy, food and other services to millions of people living in the mountains and downstream. Ensuring the continued supply of these services has never been more important. However, many mountain regions are experiencing a growing solid waste problem, from ever-expanding urban sprawls and cities, increasing consumption patterns, existing and past mining operations, tourism activities and practises of illegal dumping. Steepness, remoteness, prevailing socio-economic conditions, and vulnerability to natural hazards, makes waste management in mountains more challenging than in lowland areas. Gravity and river flow can also enlarge the footprint of mountain waste to a thousand kilometres or more downstream - and even right into the ocean.


The take-home message is that the inadequate treatment or disposal of waste in mountains not only creates risks for ecosystems and human health in mountain regions, but also for downstream areas. It is truly an issue of global concern. The good news is that there are many options available to prevent and manage waste in mountain environments, in ways that protect mountain ecosystems and people, and prevent problems from migrating downstream.


GRID-Arendal has been working to assess the waste situation in mountains and highlight solutions, including through the production of the Global Waste Management Outlook for Mountain Regions (published in 2016 by UN Environment, UNEP-IETC, GRID-Arendal and the International Solid Waste Management Association).


In 2018, GRID-Arendal is working with UNEP-IETC and local partners in Nepal, Bhutan and Mongolia to undertake a gender and waste assessment, as part of the Waste and Climate project which is being funded through the German International Climate Initiative (IKI).

Status: In progress

Type: Mountains

Programme: Polar and Climate

Tags: polar waste and material resources environmental disasters energy mining environmental crime waste water urban environment tourism mountains

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