Mountains play an essential role in supplying water, energy, food and other services to millions of people living in the mountains and downstream. Ensuring the continued supply of these services has never been more important. However, many mountain regions are experiencing a growing solid waste problem, from ever-expanding urban sprawls and cities, increasing consumption patterns, existing and past mining operations, tourism activities and practises of illegal dumping. Steepness, remoteness, prevailing socio-economic conditions, and vulnerability to natural hazards, makes waste management in mountains more challenging than in lowland areas. Gravity and river flow can also enlarge the footprint of mountain waste to a thousand kilometres or more downstream - and even right into the ocean.
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The take-home message is that the inadequate treatment or disposal of waste in mountains not only creates risks for ecosystems and human health in mountain regions, but also for downstream areas. It is truly an issue of global concern. The good news is that there are many options available to prevent and manage waste in mountain environments, in ways that protect mountain ecosystems and people, and prevent problems from migrating downstream.
This report highlights both the challenges and the solutions for sound waste management in mountain regions. It has been produced by UNEP, GRID-Arendal and the International Solid Waste Management Association.