World marks International Mountain Day with an emphasis on youth

A picture taken on December 18, 2018 shows the mountains near the tourist village of Imlil in the High Atlas range in Morocco./Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP/Getty Images

International Mountains Day is being observed today across the world to raise awareness about the importance of mountains.

Adopted in 1992, International World Mountain Day is celebrated every year on December 11, with each year focusing on a different theme.

‘Mountains matter for Youth’ is the theme of International Mountain Day 2019

This year’s observances are intended to highlight that for rural youth, living in mountains can be hard and migration from the mountains leads to abandoned agriculture, land degradation and a loss of ancient cultural traditions. Organizers also hope today provides more opportunities for young people to contribute more and do tailored research on mountain environments

United Nations data indicates that mountains are home to 15% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s land animals and plants.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization-FAO, mountains not only provide sustenance and well-being to 1.1 billion mountain people around the world but these elevated ecosystems also indirectly benefit billions living in lower elevations by providing freshwater and a myriad of energy sources.

But due to the changing climate and overexploitation, unfortunately, mountains are under threat.

In its recent report The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlighted the need for transformative changes to restore and protect nature.

“We can’t meet climate ambition without halting biodiversity loss”, its authors said. “Wildlife in high mountain areas is particularly at risk. These fragile ecosystems are experiencing drastic changes in snow cover, permafrost and glaciers due to global heating.”

To protect vulnerable mountain species, conserve mountain ecosystems and their biodiversity, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners launched the ‘Vanishing Treasures’ project in 2018. The project operates in various mountain regions, including the Virungas (Uganda, Rwanda), the Himalayas (Bhutan) and Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan). Through its work, the goal of Vanishing Treasures is to help these regions contribute towards UN Sustainable Development Goals 13 and 15. Goal 13 focuses on climate action while goal 15 highlights ways to improve life on land.