Sustainable development of mountain regions on the example of
the Carpathian region
Strasbourg, Plenary Session – 26 October 2010
Speech by Mykhaylo Kichkovskyy at a meeting of the Chamber of Regions
Dear Congress Members!
I would like start my speech with the conclusion indicated a few days ago in the UN report in the Japanese city of Nagoya at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity: "The nature of the planet is facing the greatest threat of destruction since the death of the dinosaurs. We are approaching the point at which we can no longer renew the loss of biodiversity. And the global community should elaborate immediate concerted measures to achieve ambitious and at the same time realistic goals – preservation and renewal of ecosystems of the forests, rivers, coral reefs and oceans that are vital to the mankind."
Similar conclusions were pronounced in Ukraine at the international conference on sustainable development of the Carpathians and other European mountain regions held under the aegis of the Council of Europe Congress and which was attended by representatives of central and local authorities, academic institutions and diplomats from 18 countries of the continent.
The participant’s reports and approved Uzhgorod declaration called on the governments, regional and local authorities, the whole European community to take urgent measures on conservation and development of mountain regions ecosystems, particularly in the Carpathians, in order to provide necessary living conditions for people in the context of global climate changes. Indeed, the development of globalization processes provokes more tangible environmental, economic, socio-demographic pressures on mountain regions.
The mountain regions and the Carpathians in particular, are truly the unique treasure of not only Europe, but the whole planet. It is a life source for millions of people gifted by Lord to us and future generations. And this is recognized by humanity, enshrined in UNESCO decisions, declarations of global forums on environmental security and sustainable development.
The Carpathians, as well as the Alps, Pyrenees, Ural, Scandinavian and other mountains of Europe, plays its irreplaceable life-giving role on the continent today and forms basis for global environmental safety in the future. Notwithstanding European mountain ranges occupy about 17 percent of the territory of the continent, life of almost a half of European people depends on the state of their ecosystems, ten percent of them live in the mountains and about 40 percent – in the basins of the rivers originating in the mountains. As the Congress Committee on Sustainable Development members noted during the discussion of this issue, the influence of the mountains may be felt even by coastal countries. Scientists claim that climatic role of the Carpathians is felt throughout the countries stretching for over 1300 km. That is why World Wide Fund for Nature included the Carpathians in a list of 200 most important regions in the world.
Mountain ecosystems provide adequate water, air and climatic balance, serve as habitat for most species of flora and fauna of Europe, some of them can be found only in mountainous areas of the Carpathians. We should not forget of the great aesthetic pleasure and relaxation received from mountain landscapes. Therefore, preservation of this natural heritage for future generations is our obligation and sacred duty. And I, the resident of the Carpathians, on behalf of the conference participants want to thank all the Congress members for the attention paid to the problems of sustainable development of social, economic, natural and ethno-cultural potential of the Carpathians and other mountain regions of our continent.
We are all witnesses of how the unreasonable economic activity, over-exploitation of natural resources forces the planet to face more frequent global challenges of warming and catastrophic natural disasters, causing thousands of casualties. Part of the coastal cities of Europe have long felt consequences of sea levels rise, in other regions – the terrible consequences of floods, typhoons and devastating fires, complication of water supply, serious problems in the agricultural sector. I think that we don’t need the examples of the mentioned, as many of those present here felt it first hand this summer in their countries.
In this regard, it is very important that the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe has long paid special attention to the situation in mountain regions of Europe, as evidence we can recall Recommendation on the European Charter on Mountains (2003) and the current discussion of this issue in order to adopt appropriate resolution and recommendations.
Most of mountain regions in Europe are peripheral areas with difficult natural conditions, which require special, integrated and comprehensive policy elaboration ensuring the mountain regions population the right to live and work in the mountains, preserving their habitat under conditions and living standards that would be comparable with the most favorable conditions in rural and urban areas.
Due to the difficult terrain and location far from urban centers, the population of mountain areas, in comparison with other European regions, receive less attention and support from their governments and the European Union as a whole, and it weakens the unity and causes economic inequalities. The unemployment rate here is significantly higher than in flatlands, it leads to drastic reduction of productive forces, mass migration, increased morbidity of the local population, reduction of the population growth, acceleration of aging process, endangering the development of local territorial communities.
Special attention should be devoted to the protection of water sources of the Carpathians and other mountain territories, which provide most of Europe with fresh water – the bedrock of people's lives.
More frequent devastating floods became an ecological disaster for all mountain areas, including the Carpathian countries, for the last decade. Unfortunately, similar trends are observed in other mountain regions of Europe. There is no doubt that without implementation of mutual coordinated efforts it is impossible to confront these threats.
Sustainable development of the Carpathians and other mountain regions requires consistent policy of local and regional authorities, territorial communities concerning the implementation of effective ecomanagement, rational use of forest, water and land resources, construction of modern water treatment plants, effective systems for collecting, processing and recycling of domestic and industrial waste, as well as rising of population’s environmental awareness. Thus mountain regions need the implementation of such a policy, which covers the whole range of issues, starting from the rational use of natural resources, particularly water, and to providing sustainable development of agriculture and forestry based on carefully developed plans on the improvement of transport infrastructure and public services, preservation of cultural heritage and diverse folk traditions.
In this direction local and regional authorities of the Carpathian region have gained some positive experience by implementing the provisions of the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians. Improvement of the Carpathian network of protected areas is done through the common efforts of the Carpathian countries, special protection is provided for 16 percent of the territory with 39 international and national natural parks, 7 biosphere reserves.
Due to cross-border cooperation, including within the Interregional Association “Carpathian Euroregion”, a comprehensive programme on antiflood protection in the Tisza River basin areas, significant measures on the improvement of sustainable forestry, transformation of the Carpathians into resort center are being implemented.
Still the Carpathians, being figuratively the heart and lungs of Europe, need more attention and appropriate support from the EU, like the Alps.
In this regard the Conference Declaration contains a proposal to the European Commission to allot a separate chapter for the problems of mountain territories of the Carpathian region in the EU Danube Strategy which is now being developed. Besides, it is very important to develop a standalone programme "The Carpathian Space" within EU cross-border cooperation programmes, establish the European Environment Fund. It will enable local and regional authorities of all Carpathian countries, not only EU member states, to participate more actively in the further implementation of the mountain regions sustainable development policies. Sustainable development, rational use and conservation of natural resources of the Carpathians can not be achieved through the efforts of one or a few states. The solving of these problems is only possible by combining physical, intellectual, financial and organizational capabilities and efforts of public and state institutions, local self-governments of the whole European Community.
By the adoption of our resolution and recommendation on sustainable development in upland territories, that situated near the borders in a number of states, we have also contribute to the effective implementation the new 3rd additional Protocol to the Madrid Convention as well as to the instrument of Intermunicipal Co-operation that is separately indicated in the mentioned documents.
In my opinion it will have a direct impact on the implementation of a number of fundamental human rights, especially the right for a healthy environment for present and future generations all over Euro