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UNESCO leads ‘Climate and Water’ session at the World Mountain Forum, Cusco, Peru

The World Mountain Forum (WMF) will be held from 22 to 25 May 2014 in Cusco, Peru, to promote sustainable mountain development (SMD). The forum is an initiative of the Mountain Partnership, whose members include UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP) and several other institutions worldwide.
During the event UNESCO will lead a session on ‘Climate and Water’, allowing scientists, water managers and decision-makers, among others, to share experiences and recommendations on how to deal with climate change impacts on water resources in mountain areas.

The session will be attended by the Director of the UNESCO Division of Water Sciences and the Secretary of IHP, Dr. Blanca Jimenez Cisneros, and IHP Programme Specialist for Hydrological Processes and Climate, Dr. Anil Mishra.

Mountains and their adjacent valleys occupy 24% of the Earth’s surface and are home to 1.2 billion people. They provide numerous and diverse ecosystem services of which water supply is one of the most critical. The importance of mountains as a source of freshwater justifies their reputation as ‘water towers’ of the world. About 40% of the global population depends indirectly on mountain resources for water supply, agriculture, hydroelectricity and biodiversity.

Mountains are among the most sensitive ecosystems to climate change and are being affected at a faster rate than other terrestrial habitats. Climate impacts constitute a significant threat to mountain ecosystem services and the populations depending on them, and have considerable effects on water resources. Many glaciers are retreating under the influence of rising temperatures, making them key indicators of climate change.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA)
Image: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA). The mass of the Nigardsbreen maritime outlet glacier has fluctuated as a result of climate change.

Most of the people who live in mountain regions face extreme poverty, exacerbated by the effects of climate change, which reduces water availability for domestic and agricultural use and hydropower generation. Recent statistics also indicate that 35% of mountain populations in developing countries are vulnerable to food insecurity and half of these suffer from chronic hunger.

These effects form the subject of the exhibition ‘Climate change impacts on mountain regions of the world’, organized within the framework of the World Mountain Forum. The exhibition is a joint initiative of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere programme and IHP, and will open on 22 May at Cusipata Square in Cusco.

The exhibition uses satellite images, provided mainly by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), to highlight the critical functions of mountains and the implications of climate change for mountain ecosystems, water resources and livelihoods.

The exhibition was developed with the support of the Government of Flanders (Belgium), JAXA, the European Space Agency (ESA), the US Geological Survey (USGS) and Planet Action, and was presented initially at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris during the 37th session of the UNESCO General Conference in 2013.

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