The International Seminar on Mountains, held in Kathmandu, Nepal from 6-8 March 2002, was inaugurated by His Majesty King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev and was addressed by the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister of Nepal. It was organized by the Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (RONAST) in cooperation with Ev-K2-CNR of Italy and with the co-sponsorship of the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), IUCN- the World Conservation Union, King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation (KMTNC), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The seminar witnessed intensive interactions by 224 participants representing over 75 national and international organizations from 20 different countries, including major mountain systems such as the Himalaya, the Alps, the Rockies, the Andes and other independent chains. The meeting was permeated with a sense of hope for a better mountain environment in the future, but it was also not shy of addressing problems head on. Mountains are many things ¬ recreation to some, resources to others, sacred places of pilgrimage and aesthetic landscape to some more ¬ but the most important is that they are home to many people of varied heritages. Recognizing that diversity is the hallmark of mountain regions and their people, the seminar makes the following declarations:
This International Seminar on Mountains-Kathmandu 2002 recalls the earlier declarations, viz. Kathmandu Declaration 1982 on Mountain Activities, Declaration of Merida of the Andes 2001, and Declaration from the United Nations University International Symposium on Conservation of Mountain Ecosystems 2002. We support these earlier pronouncements to conserve the mountain environment and express our concern for their effective implementation.
The mountain regions of the world have serious problems that need urgent attention from governments, academics, civil society as well as business leaders. Mountains also present immense prospects for the material and spiritual benefits of all the residents of this planet. Recognition of the problems and prospects of mountains has to be assured at all levels, from grassroots service delivery and activism, to policy planning and decision-making. Such awareness can arise only if mountain issues are included expressly in the formal and informal educational curricula and special efforts are made to provide effective information to the mass media. For this purpose, modern information technology, if judiciously implemented, can bring significant benefits to the mountain communities. This seminar recommends setting up and strengthening a repository of mountain knowledge and making it accessible to mountain dwellers and scholars, locally as well as internationally between mountain regions.
This gathering recognizes that better knowledge is a prerequisite for good decision-making to alleviate the increasing stress on mountain ecosystems and their social environments. It makes a special appeal to the international and national scientific communities to push further the frontier of mountain knowledge in both the natural and social sciences to harmonize exogenous (globalization) and endogenous (localization) forces for the betterment of those who live in traditional knowledge, this meeting appeals for a modern mountain science that builds on the traditional knowledge systems and strengthens them without displacing the powerless.
The seminar witnessed intensive interactions by 224 participants representing over 75 national and international organizations from 20 different countries, including major mountain systems such as the Himalaya, the Alps, the Rockies, the Andes and other independent chains.
Past development discourse has focused on mountains as a resource-base to be exploited for the general well-being. While recognizing the need to improve resource use in the mountains, this meeting strongly appeals for an approach that also gives something to the mountains. It is time that those who live in and depend upon mountains as well as those that visit it, think of, and act on, what they can do to preserve and protect this inherently fragile ecosystem that sustains our material and aesthetic needs. Sadly today, many mountain areas are theaters of armed conflicts and violence. Without peace, there is no development in the mountain regions. This seminar appeals for peace in the mountains.
Most mountain areas are already at the limit of extensive agriculture relying on diverse traditional techniques. This meeting understands the challenge today to be the improvement of agriculture production without further damage to biodiversity, prevention of soil and plant nutrient loss, and reversing degradation of the environment. Biotechnology tools such as tissue culture, embryo transfer, molecular biological techniques and organic farming with effective use of macro and microorganisms can, if judiciously used, provide mountain agriculture with new means to improve productivity in an environmentally sound manner. Since mountain agriculture is symbiotically interlinked with agro-forestry and upland pastoralism, the challenge of harmonizing highland agriculture with environmental concerns lies in recognizing and strengthening community forestry and livestock practices, and integrating them with the sustainable development of non-timber forest products.
The basic challenge of biodiversity conservation in the mountains is to reverse the loss of forests as well as wetlands and aquatic habitats, and to make them safe for all forms life. This seminar, based on reviewing of policies on biodiversity conservation, makes a strong appeal for consolidated efforts of national parks and conservation areas to promote effective habitats and corridors between habitats to sustain endangered flagship species as well as other flora and fauna. The seminar also supports the concept and practice of biodiversity registration including that of codified and non-codified knowledge systems in mountain regions as a means to prevent biodiversity loss as well as to protect the rights and indigenous knowledge systems of mountain communities. The seminar appeals to the business and industry leaders to jointly work out and implement a "green audit" of production together with the conservation community.
While mountains are said to be rich in mineral resources, neither is much known systematically about them, nor have mountain people benefited economically from their exploitation. On the contrary, the inhabitants of the highland regions mostly suffer from frequent natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslides, floods, volcanic eruptions and glacial lake outburst floods. Inherent geological conditions and climate being the main causes of such disasters, more in-depth scientific studies on various aspects of geology and climate are fundamental to understand and mitigate these disasters. This meeting calls for a better sharing of knowledge, sensitivity towards geological equilibrium in development interventions, and an increased intensity of research collaboration between earth-scientists working on mountain regions. It appeals to concerned governments to facilitate such interactions.
Verticality in the mountain regions is the cause of both aesthetic delight and backbreaking toil. Since mountain regions are rich in all four major sources of renewable energy (hydropower, wind, solar energy and biomass), development policy must be better informed about the diversity of demand for water and energy in specific mountain niches. Suitable infrastructure developed for specific needs through appropriate technology can greatly mitigate the baneful aspects of mountain life by utilizing the right kind of energy for the right purpose through right technology choices. It is necessary to both preserve and develop the mountain environment, specifically its water and biomass resources, in a manner that recognizes their key role in the hydrosphere's cycle and in the lives of both mountain and plains people. Much of this can be assured through a system of governance that promotes local decision-making and regulation.mountain regions. Because the rich social diversity of mountain regions still retains systems of
High altitude living is subject to biophysical stress. People living in mountainous regions have adapted to these conditions together with the area¹s flora and fauna. Medical science needs to widen its research horizon to better understand human physiology under these extreme conditions. This knowledge is useful not only for inhabitants of the mountains but also for those in the plains and, perhaps, in other extreme physical conditions such as the polar regions and outer space. In this quest, traditional medical knowledge systems such as Ayurveda etc. should also be included. Every year thousands of trekkers and devotees, accompanied by many poor porters, visit high altitude areas without knowledge of mountain sickness, which can be life threatening if the early warning signs are not heeded. Indeed, many die from this affliction and its complications every year. Medical practice in mountain regions, while primarily striving to provide better medical care to people living in remote mountain areas, must at the same time focus on prevention measures amongst pilgrims, porters and trekkers.
Diverse cultural and natural heritages of the mountains are traditionally inter-linked with each other. Cultural forces are influential factors in maintaining protected areas and attracting ecotourism visitors to the mountains. Therefore, sustainable ecotourism should be promoted to directly benefit the local communities so that they will continue to maintain their cultural and natural heritages for the future generation. To do so, this seminar appeals to all governments for commitment to ensure that a significant portion of the revenue generated by ecotourism is fed back to the local communities.