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Saturday, 2 November, 2002, 14:23 GMT
Mountain summit ends in smiles
Mountain, BBC

The Global Mountain Summit has ended here with the organisers claiming it has been a resounding success.


Mountains are vital to all life on Earth and to the wellbeing of people everywhere

Shafqat Kakakhel, Unep
It agreed a final document, the Bishkek Mountain Platform, designed to protect the mountains themselves and the people who live on them.

There have been claims the summit was yet another wasteful international talking-shop. But the organisers say it will soon start benefiting mountain people.

The summit, the culmination of the United Nations' International Year of Mountains, was organised by the Kyrgyzstan Government, supported by the UN Environment Programme (Unep).

Better use

"To change tomorrow, you have to have commitment today," Hosny el-Lakany, of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, another international partner, told journalists.

"Politically, we have the Mountain Platform. Financially, it appears there will be some commitments in the future. And there is to be a secretariat.

"Hopefully, in the very near future, the people who live in the mountains will feel there is some action."

Of the 800 million hungry people in the world, he said, between 250million and 360 million lived in mountainous areas.

Unep said the Mountain Platform's goal was "to improve the livelihoods of mountain people, to protect mountain ecosystems, and to use mountain resources more wisely".

Waste problem

Shafqat Kakakhel, deputy executive director of Unep, said: "The Bishkek summit has been extremely rich in substance and represents the largest-ever assembly of ideas, reviews and actions on mountain issues.

"The Government of Kyrgyzstan has launched a critical process. Mountains are vital to all life on Earth and to the wellbeing of people everywhere.

"What happens on the highest peak affects life in the lowlands, in fresh waters, and even in the seas."

Unep gave more details of the announcement by President Askar Akaev of Kyrgyzstan that the country would be receiving foreign help to clear up nuclear waste dumps left over from the Soviet era.

Help from the Norwegian Government will go towards work on dumps near the mountain town of Maily-Suu.

The waste, tailings from a uranium mine stored in deteriorating dams, could spill into rivers flowing from Kyrgyzstan into the Fergana valley, much of which lies across the border in Uzbekistan.

Local abstentions

The president said the waste could conceivably threaten the health of 10 million people if it contaminated the water supply.

The US has promised to help with work on another dump near the huge Issyk-Kul lake in north-eastern Kyrgyzstan.

There have been complaints from some participants that the summit was a waste of time.

They point to the failure of two other central Asian states, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, both envious of Kyrgyzstan's water supplies, to sign the Central Asian Mountain Charter presented to the conference earlier in the week.

This, in the view of some delegates, means regional attempts to protect mountains and their resources have fallen at the first hurdle.

But officials say the two countries' abstention was more a matter of procedure than of deliberate policy.

Mr Asylbek Aidaraliev, an adviser to President Akaev, told BBC News Online: "I don't know why Uzbekistan didn't come to the summit. Turkmenistan has told us it will sign the charter later. In any case, it's not a tragedy."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Pallab Ghosh
reports on the importance of mountainous areas
Alex Kirby reports from the Global Mountain Summit

Key stories
See also:

23 Sep 02 | Business
05 Sep 02 | Africa
07 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
16 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
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