International Year of Mountains

By Gary Garriott

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Mountains are about one-fifth of the world's land surface area. Mountains are a very important part of the earth's ecology and environment. They contain important eco-systems, such as forests. They provide the most important resources for about one-tenth of the world's population. Mountains also provide goods and services to more than half the people in the world.

Melting snow from mountains provides water for hundreds of millions of people. For example, the Himalayan Mountains supply drinking water for the people of India. Mountains are also important areas for winter sports. Millions of people visit countries in Europe to ski down mountains every year.

Mountains are also important in the cultures of many people. For example, the ancient Incas of South America built their most important cities and temples high in the mountains. Machu Picchu is an ancient Incan city in the Andes Mountains. It is one of the most popular places to visit in Peru.

Mountains are important to the world. But there are problems involving mountains in many places. People who live in mountain areas are usually poor. There is often very little economic activity in these areas. Mountain environments are sometimes not supervised very well. When this happens, eco-systems supporting plant and animal life suffer.

In some areas, too many trees are cut down. When it rains heavily, water can rush down the sides of mountains and flood villages and cities. Serious flooding kills many people and animals every year. In addition, earthquakes can cause hillsides to come crashing down in powerful landslides.

The United Nations wants to help more people learn about the importance of mountains as well as their problems. So the U-N General Assembly has named the year Two-Thousand-Two the "International Year of Mountains."Many activities including research and development projects have been planned for next year. The U-N Food and Agriculture Organization is leading this special recognition of mountains.

You can get more information on mountains and the "International Year of Mountains" at the Internet address, w-w-w-dot- mountains-two-thousand-two-dot-org.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Gary Garriott.

Voice of America Special English