International Mountains Day is being celebrated globally today.
This year’s theme “Mountains Matter” aims to highlight how mountains matter for water, disaster risk reduction, food, indigenous peoples and biodiversity.
Almost one billion people live in mountain areas with over half the population depending on mountains for water, food and clean energy.Yet mountains are under threat from climate change, land degradation, overexploitation and natural disasters with potentially far-reaching and devastating consequences, both for mountain communities and the rest of the world.An early indicator of climate change, the people living on the mountains are some of the world’s hungriest and poorest and face great struggles to survive.
The rising temperatures mean that mountain glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates, affecting freshwater supplies downstream for millions of people.Mountain communities, however, have a wealth of knowledge and strategies accumulated over generations on how to adapt to climate variability.Climate change, climate variability and climate-induced disasters, combined with political, economic and social marginalization, increase the vulnerability of mountain peoples to food shortages and extreme poverty.
Currently, one in three people in developed countries is estimated to be vulnerable to food insecurity. As the vulnerability of mountain populations grows, migration increases both abroad and to urban centres. Those who remain behind are often women left to manage the farms but with little access to credit, training and land tenure rights.Almost 60 to 80 per cent of the world’s water comes from the water with mountains attracting 15-20 per cent of global tourism. These areas are an important source of cultural diversity, knowledge and heritage.