Askar Akaev hopes that recognition of mountains as a source of progress for civilization will lead to a rational development policy for mountain regions

The mountains of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan are an integral part of the global life support system. Craggy, snow-capped peaks, rugged mountainsides, gushing torrents and the fragility of the plant cover are all characteristics of mountainous areas. Mountains never fail to fascinate us with their sheer mass, their exoticism, the range of climatic zones, their unique flora and fauna and the pure waters of mountain lakes.

At the same time, this type of terrain is particularly vulnerable. Natural disasters, deterioration of the environment and impoverished populations are all negative aspects of fragile mountain ecosystems.

The quality of life of mountain communities contrasts sharply with living conditions in other parts of the globe. Mountain-dwellers live in harsh, sometimes extreme circumstances. Their existence is a constant struggle against the forces of nature, and this influences their character, outlook, culture and philosophy of life. Yet mountain communities have a uniqueness, a culture and customs that enable them to adapt to complex climatic and geographical conditions.

Joint efforts
In the international arena, Kyrgyzstan advocates the need for the sustainable use of mountain resources and sustainable mountain development, notably through cooperation with international organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), UNEP, UNESCO and others, as well as with Switzerland. This includes setting up a network to pool our efforts and collaborate in developing new initiatives through innovative strategies and the practical implementation of various projects and scientific research.

In the third millennium, humanity will be increasingly reliant on mountain resources such as water, biodiversity and recreational facilities. There must therefore be a sea change in the consumerist attitude towards the world’s greatest ecosystem because increased accessibility to mountains and their harnessing for economic purposes is leading to a growing threat of declining resources.
‘... nature can defend itself up to a certain point, but when it is crossed – it can’t anymore’

Krzysztof, Mountain Voices

Mountain regions, as a life-support system for humans today, are a source of progress for civilization. The international community must be made aware of the change in society’s view of mountains and the need to dispel stereotypes and lay the foundations of a rational policy for the development of mountain areas: one of economic partnership, respect for national traditions and an understanding of the global importance of mountains.

I am convinced that the journal Our Planet will promote a better understanding of every aspect of environmental issues worldwide, and I do hope that it will draw the attention both of individuals and organizations to mountain concerns. In so doing it will be making an invaluable contribution to a rapprochement between states responsible for the livelihoods of a hugely diverse number of mountain communities, and to helping find solutions to their problems

Dr. Askar Akaev is President of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan.

PHOTOGRAPH: Mario Infante/Topham

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Saving the common land | Aiming high | Mighty, but fragile | Walking the talk | Regreening the slopes | For the people | High priorities | Natural beauty | Prospects for WSSD: Towards Johannesburg | Along a steep pathway | The height of trouble | Disneyland or diversity? | Path to discovery | On top of the issue | Peak condition | Swimming upstream | Cloudy future

Complementary articles:
AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment:
Population and ecosystems: Mountains

Complementary report:
Mountain Watch Report