By Faranak Bakhtiari

International Mountain Day: natural treasure must be protected

December 11, 2019 - 18:39

TEHRAN – Mountains have long been home to people and a source of freshwater, however, they are currently under threat due to climate change and overexploitation, so this is the time to take steps toward protecting the nature’s valuable treasure.

Launched in 1992 as part of the action plan Agenda 21 of the Conference on Environment and Development, the International Mountain Day is celebrated annually on December 11.

The increasing attention to the importance of mountains led the UN to declare 2002 the UN International Year of Mountains. The first international day was celebrated for the first time the following year, 2003.

Mountains are home of 15 percent of the world´s population and a quarter of the world’s land animals and plants, in addition to providing fresh water to half of humanity, so their conservation is a key factor for sustainable development.

Because all kinds of precious metals and stones, coal, and other raw materials are hidden in the heart of the mountains, they have always been encroached by a human; also due to agricultural lands which are used for forage production, herbs, livestock breeding, production of meat, dairy and all kinds of food.

Unfortunately, mountains are under threat from climate change and overexploitation, as mountain glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates, affecting freshwater supplies downstream for millions of people, so there should be measures to take care of these natural treasures.

This year, International Mountain Day held with a theme of “Mountains Matter for Youth”, which was a chance to highlight that for rural youth, living in the mountains can be hard. Migration from the mountains leads to abandoned agriculture, land degradation and a loss of ancient cultural traditions.

Education and training, market access, diverse employment opportunities, and good public services can ensure a brighter future for young people in the mountains.

Mountains require public, government participation 

Hossein Abiri-Golpayegani, director of green mountain association said that for thousands of years, a significant portion of human communities are living in the mountains and make a living through the mountainous areas, but over the last few decades, human has brought a wide range of mountainous areas under its control for exploitation, which turned to a main concern for the current generation.

Since humans have learned from experience that mountainous areas are one of the lucrative resources, various types of development plans have begun in these areas, and unfortunately, sometimes over-exploitation has caused irreparable damages, which requires a lot of funds to compensate, he lamented.

Referring to Iran’s mountains namely, Alborz, Zagros, Alvand, Binaloud, Damavand, Sabalan, Sahand, Dena and Taftan, he noted that Iran is one of the few countries in the world that are mostly covered with mountainous areas, and natural resources, while this multiplies our task of protecting this valuable ecosystem.

About 90 percent of the world's drinking water originates from the mountains, which can be stored underground through springs, marshes, wells or through rivers and streams or behind dams, he said.

He went on to add that “pristine forests, rare plant and animal species in the mountainous areas have made this precious ecosystem more valuable.

The good weather in the mountainous areas attracts many tourists in different seasons, especially during the hot season, and even this has led to the formation of human civilizations.”

Most of the sites, resorts, waterfalls, caves, monuments, as well as beautiful wildflowers, are abundant in the mountains, he stated, adding, the benefits of mountainous areas are not limited to a specific public or private sector, so that the whole people, private and public sectors must work together to protect it.

So many people make a living by working daily in the mountainous areas, and now if some poachers try to destroy the mountains for their own benefit must be pushed and prevented, he highlighted. 

The government can decide on sustainable development of such areas, and locals must consider the national interests of the country and use the natural resources in a proper way and hand it over to the next generations, he concluded.

Iran’s mountainous areas

Nearly, two-thirds of Iran is covered with mountains, the main mountain chain is the Zagros Mountains that bisect the country from northwest to southeast, many peaks in the Zagros exceed 3,000 meters above sea level, and in the south-central region of the country, there are at least five peaks that are over 4,000 meters.

As the Zagros continue into southeastern Iran, the average elevation of the peaks declines dramatically to under 1,500 meters. Rimming the Caspian Sea littoral is another chain of mountains, the narrow but high Alborz Mountains. Volcanic Mount Damavand, 5,610 meters, located in the center of the Alborz, is not only the country's highest peak but also the highest mountain on the Eurasian landmass west of the Hindu Kush.

The center of Iran consists of several closed basins that collectively are referred to as the Central Plateau. The average elevation of this plateau is about 900 meters, but several of the mountains that tower over the plateau exceed 3,000 meters. 

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