by Asghar Khan
Gilgit, December 12: International Mountain Day was celebrated at KIU in collaboration with, Gilgit Baltistan Environmental Protection Agency (GB-EPA), Mass Awareness for Water Conservation & Development (MAWCD Project), Karakoram International University, Wetlands and Serena Hotels. The theme for this year was “Disaster Risk Management in Mountains”.
Different School and University students participated in this one day seminar. Dr. Ahsan Elahi acting vice chancellor KIU, was the chief guest of the event.
The chief guest in his speech said the International Mountain Day is an opportunity to create awareness about the importance of mountains to life, to highlight the opportunities and constraints in mountain development and to build partnerships that will bring positive change to Gilgit Baltistan’s mountain communities the lives of which are intricately connected to mountains, and their survival depends on mountain biological diversity. Prize and Shields were distributed by the Chief Guest to the participants and organizers.
Speech competition of KIU students and painting competition from different schools on the International Mountain Day were also held as part of the seminar.
Ms. Sadia Aziz form MAAWCD UNDP in her speech talked about the history of International Mountain Day. She said that this day was initiated by the United Nations General Assembly, who designated 11 December, from 2003 onwards, as ‘International Mountain Day’. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is the designated lead coordinating agency mandated to lead observance of International Mountain Day, she said. The day is observed every year with a different theme relevant to sustainable mountain development.
Mr. Khadim Hussain, Director GBEPA, discussed theme of the day and said that this year’s International Mountain Day theme “Disaster Risk Management in Mountains” aims to raise awareness on the high number of natural hazards in mountain areas and the high vulnerability of mountain communities. Mountains are hazardous places. Many mountain communities live under the threat of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, avalanches, landslides and floods. Factors that make cause people live in these vulnerable situations, he said, includes, ties of kinship and community, a culturally different notion of risk and last but not least, poverty.
“Population growth and unsustainable natural resources management practices have put dangerous pressure on the mountain ecosystems and make mountain communities increasingly vulnerable to disasters,” Climate change is causing glaciers to retreat and dangerous lakes to form at their foot. The banks of these lakes are weak and when they are breached a natural hazard known as a glacial lake outburst flood results (as it is happening here in Passu and Ghulkin Gojal in recent years). To reduce the risks of disasters in mountain areas it is urgent to increase awareness and to develop integrated strategies and policies on disaster risk management at the national level.
International Mountain Day 2009 aims to draw attention to sustainable agricultural, pasture, forestry practices, watershed management and water conservation as key elements of risk reduction. This year’s slogan is ”REDUCING RISK SAVES LIVES” the theme of disaster risk management in mountains was chosen to highlight the urgent need to adopt climate change adaptation strategies that reduce risks of disasters in mountains.