Press Releases - August 2004 - K-2 Golden Anniversary Provides Fillip for Mountain Conservation Efforts - United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
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K-2 Golden Anniversary Provides Fillip for Mountain Conservation Efforts

UNEP congratulates Italian and Pakistani leaders

August 4, 2004, Bangkok, Nairobi - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today congratulated the Pakistan and Italian governments for the way its commemorative activities of the first ascent of K-2, the world’s second highest mountain, had drawn attention to the need for protection of mountain ecosystems.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Italian Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Policies Giami Alemanno met today, capping a week of activities to celebrate the successful climb of the 8611-metre mountain from Pakistan by an Italian team in 1954.

K-2, on the border of Pakistan and China, is regarded as the world’s most difficult mountain: only 198 have climbed it and 56 have died trying, a fatality rate three times worse than Mount Everest. Several expeditions have successfully reached the summit over the past week, the first to do so for three years.

The governments have used the festivities to announce a new Italian-funded aerosol and particulate monitoring station at Urdokas, near the base of K-2 in the Karakoram/ Himalayan mountain region. The observatory equipment will contribute to UNEP-led international research on the formation and distribution of ‘atmospheric brown clouds’. This layer of soot and other airborne pollutants is forming over densely populated parts of the world as a result of the burning of wood, charcoal and other so called biomass, and the combustion of fossil fuels and industrial processes. Scientists believe the clouds may have significant impacts on weather patterns, agriculture and human health.

UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said the joint celebrations had highlighted a great feat of human endurance and provided an elegant symbol of bilateral cooperation. “You have helped remind us of the great beauty of the mountains and the role they play as the water towers and biological storehouses of the world, providing socio-economic benefits not only to those who live in them and but all of us who are downstream, ” Mr Toepfer said.

Mr Toepfer pledged to continue UNEP’s support for initiatives that protect mountain ecosystems. Working closely with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO), UNEP contributed to the UN International Year of the Mountains in 2002, the hosting of the Global Mountain Summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and the establishment of the International Mountain Partnership secretariat, supported by Italy and other European governments, in Rome.

UNEP has helped seven European countries to negotiate a framework convention on the protection and sustainable development of the Carpathian Mountains. And it works closely with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas - particularly on a project to predict and mitigate Glacial Lake Outburst Floods, which can devastate mountain communities and lands and appear to be increasing in frequency due to melting of glaciers caused by global warming.

The 50th anniversary events, which took place mainly between July 30 and August 1, included a scientific-mountaineering expedition on K-2, the honorary leader of which was Minister Alemanno, the inauguration of a K-2 museum in Skardu donated by Italy, the issuing of a K-2 postal stamp by the Government of Pakistan and an Italian-Pakistan polo match.

Minister Alemanno and Pakistan’s Minister for Environment Maj Tahir Iqbal earlier this week announced Italian financial and technical assistance to the Ministry of Environment for the development of Kora Korum National Park and a national database on medicinal plants of the country’s northern areas.

Mountain areas cover 26 percent of the Earth's land surface and host 12 percent of its people. They provide essential resources for both mountain and lowland people, including fresh water for at least half of humanity, critical reserves of biodiversity, food, forests and minerals. Climate change, natural hazards and other forces are threatening the complex webs of life that mountains support.

For more information contact:

Eric Falt, Spokesperson/Director of UNEP's Division of Communications and Public Information, on Tel: 254 20 623292, Mobile: 254 (0) 733 682656, E-mail: or Tim Higham, Regional Information Officer, UNEP, Bangkok, on Tel +66 2 288 2127, Mobile +66 9 1283803, E-mail

UNEP ROAP News Release 2004/12