Held each year on 11 December, International Day of Mountains was established by the UN General Assembly in 2003 to create awareness about the importance of mountains to life and to encourage sustainable development in mountains.
Mountains are crucial to life as they provide freshwater to at least half of the world’s population. Alongside this they harbor a rich variety of plants and animals and are home to many people. It has been said that mountains are the water towers of the world.
Mountain Environment Protection Society (MEPS) organized an event in Tehran to celebrate the day. Representatives from Department of Environment, experts in the field along with UN officials attended the Conference on the Rights and Policies for Mountains which was held at Enghelab Sport Complex on 16 December 2013. Its theme: “Mountains – Key to a Sustainable Future.”
In addressing the event, Mr. Abdollah Ashtari, Managing Director of MEPS shared his concerns with the audience stating that “Climate change, environmental degradation, poverty and other issues threaten the web of life that mountains support.” He added: “We are blessed to live in a country surrounded by mountains, but our lack of effort and cooperation can lead to life-long damages. We need to unite to overcome the challenges we face and in order to prevent any more damages from occurring.
Dr. Ahmad-Ali Keykhah, Deputy of Natural Resources and Biodiversity of the Department of Environment spoke at the event and emphasized on Iran’s critical environmental situation. He shared with the audience some of his environmental concerns such as the situation of Lake Orumiyeh and Hamon Lake among others. Dr. Keykhah said that each and every citizen is responsible for looking after these precious sources and there is a need to step back once in a while and ask ourselves if our behavior is in line with our belief to save the environment.
Dr. Noureddin Mona, FAO Representative in Iran was among the speakers. In his remarks he said: “Mountain ecosystems and watersheds are essential for long-term sustainable global development and poverty alleviation and can make an important contribution to climate change adaptation and mitigation.” He went on to add “FAO’s partnership and assistance is available in providing technical assistance, information and training which could be used at national level to improve the knowledge and skills of those involved in sustainable mountain development.”
The Acting Resident Representative of UNDP, Dr. B. Murali speaking at the event stated the following: “To respond to the global challenges and threats, holistic, participatory and integrated approaches that address all aspects of sustainability are required. The specific needs and inter-linkages of different aspects of sustainable mountain development – such as water, biodiversity, tourism and infrastructure – must be taken into account.” “To achieve sustainable mountain development it is essential that all concerned stakeholders are involved and that awareness is raised about mountain ecosystems, their fragility and prevalent problems, and about ways of addressing them” Dr. Murali said.
UNDP Iran currently has two projects contributing to mountain biodiversity conservation and sustainable development; Conservation of biodiversity in Central Zagros Landscapes and Building multiple-use forest management framework to conserve biodiversity in the Caspian Hyrcanian Forest Landscape.
Other programs included screening of informative video clips focusing on the topic of mountains as well as a presentation by Professor Bruno Messerli from Bern University.