Lessons from Super!Alp 6


A group of journalists from media outlets in Europe, Asia, and Canada were a part of Super!Alp 6 – a 1,500 kilometre crossing of the Alps using sustainable transport to highlight the region’s natural, cultural, and social environment as well as create awareness of the Alpine Convention – from 4 to 11 July 2012. With ICIMOD’s support, Pragati Shahi, an environmental reporter from The Kathmandu Post, joined the 8-day journey, where she was able to learn about the Alpine environment, document good development practices and challenges in the region, and share the issues of the Hindu Kush Himalayas with other international journalists and participants. During the trip, she was also able to identify commonalities between the Alps and the HKH as well as lessons learnt from Alpine development that can be applied in the HKH region.

The Alps are among the most popular tourist destinations in the world. With a well-developed infrastructure allowing tourists easy access to the mountains, it isn’t surprising that an estimated 100 million people visit the region each year. Unlike the Hindu Kush Himalayas, communities in the Alps have been taking full advantage of the region’s tourism potential for decades. During this time they have demonstrated successful models for the social, cultural and economic development of region. But in recent times, the effects of globalization and climate change are bearing heavily on the Alpine environment, and the negative consequences are becoming increasingly visible. Glaciers are retreating, snow-capped peaks are disappearing, and rural mountain communities are abandoning villages in search of education, employment, and health facilities in urban centres. Climate change is taking a toll on mountain agriculture as well. Yet, many of the region’s mountain communities are unlikely to develop adaptation strategies on their own. 

Nations in the region are now working together to find a balance between sustainable tourism and socioeconomic development, in part, through the Alpine Convention, which has been signed by eight Alpine countries and the European Union for the protection of the region’s natural environment and the preservation of the cultural and social identity of local populations. As a part of the Alpine Convention, countries must propose concrete measures both in terms of mitigation and adaptation in the mountains. Various thematic groups on mountain agriculture, forestry, tourism, and transport are working under the Convention to contribute towards the long-term development of the Alps through regional cooperation and commitments from the respective governments. To strengthen mountain farming and address socioeconomic and environmental challenges to the agricultural sector, the Convention introduced the Protocol on Mountain Farming in 2006. Countries are working together to encourage the use of renewable energy including hydropower, wind, and bio-mass. And the promotion of mountain biking, the identification of new trails, and the promotion of mountain cultures and traditions are other areas where collaboration between Alpine countries is being used for to promote sustainable mountain tourism. 

Despite hosting some of the highest peaks in the world, the HKH region has not been able to harness its tourism potential. In the Himalayas, the largest challenge remains of addressing widespread poverty and a lack of adequate resources and facilities to meet even the most basic of education, infrastructure, and health needs. The Alpine Convention provides an encouraging model for cooperation between the countries of the HKH region, a key for the sustainable development of the mountains and for improving the lives of underprivileged and marginalized mountain communities. The countries in the HKH region should work together to form a similar regional treaty that promotes the sustainable development of the Hindu Kush Himalayas through increased collaboration and coordination.

This article is based on a report of the event submitted by Pragati Shahi, The Kathmandu Post

All photos courtesy of the Author