According to scientists, more than 15% of the world's population lives in mountainous areas, and about half of the entire biodiversity of our planet is located there. Mountainous regions are more affected by climate change than others: rising temperatures, melting glaciers, and land degradation affect every inhabitant of the Earth in one way or another. To raise awareness of the importance of mountain ecosystems, International Mountain Day is celebrated annually on December 11. A traditional celebration was held at the Moscow Headquarters of the Russian Geographical Society.
Vladimir Kotlyakov, Chairman of the RGS Commission on Tourism Development, Honorary President of the RGS, and Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, gave a welcoming speech. He stressed the special importance of the event as part of the support for the mountainous regions of Russia.
The theme of Mountain Day in 2023 is "Restoration of Mountain Ecosystems". This includes the conservation of natural resources, socio-economic missions, and adaptation to environmental changes. The main task is to find biodiversity-oriented practices and investments that reduce the vulnerability of mountain areas and increase their sustainability.
Yuri Badenkov, a leading researcher at the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a member of the Commission on Tourism Development and the Council of Elders of the Russian Geographical Society, spoke about the trends in the development of mountainous territories in the 21st century:
“The theme of our meeting today is ‘Mountains and the City’. In many ways, these concepts are antipodes: urbanized territories and megacities are drivers of development at all levels, while mountains remain on the periphery in this matter. However, if we examine this issue at a deeper level, we will see a cycle of interconnection: the city makes mountains, and vice versa. In Russia, 40 regions are considered mountainous, and these are the territories of our country. At the same time, mountains and cities have stable connections. One of the key ones is the development of tourism: mostly residents of large cities go to the mountains to relax. Mountain tourism is both a support and a threat to fragile ecosystems and traditions. The role of geography is to harmonize these two seemingly mutually exclusive aspects.”
One of the most important mountainous regions of the country can be called the Republic of Dagestan. During the summer period alone (from April to September) this year, more than 1.5 million tourists visited there, and most of them visited the mountainous territories. All these are the results of large-scale socio-economic transformations in the region. Linar Imangulov, a graduate student at the Faculty of Geography, Moscow State University, a specialist at the Research Center for the Study of Rural Problems under the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation, told about the results of research on this topic:
“According to the results of complex expeditions on the territory of the Republic of Dagestan over the past five years, organized by the Faculty of Geography of Moscow State University, it is safe to say: the development of mountain territories takes place in the system of ‘center – periphery’ relations, where cities act as centers of innovation that extend their influence to the surrounding mountainous territories and gradually modernize these spaces.”
Alexander Panin, Director of the Center for Geodemography and Spatial Development of Moscow State University, told about how to preserve and develop mountain territories:
“According to recent estimates, there are more than 20,000 mountain settlements in our country; about 80% of cities in the mountains show population growth. At the same time, projects for the development of such settlements do not always take into account the context: an ordinary square or a promenade along the embankment, when there are strong height differences, cannot be built – you have to to develop new approaches in planning and designing space there. Using the tools for territory master planning can be called the right strategy here, and Derbent became the first successful project among mountain territories.”
The master plan is a strategic view of the future development of the city. It is divided into specific projects that are implemented by the city's team together with leading specialists. Accessible infrastructure, cultural and educational projects, opportunities for self-realization of specialists, and the level of tourism organization are key aspects of the projects. At the same time, the historical component and the constant ecological factor of biodiversity conservation in the mountainous environment are in the focus of attention.
In his closing remarks, Yuri Badenkov stressed the need to create a separate platform where you can discuss the mountain space of Russia. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to develop an educational website that will provide anyone with the opportunity to take the initiative to develop mountain areas in our country.
The celebration was held at the exhibition of the works by the artist-traveler, environmentalist, and journalist, member of the Russian Geographical Society Vyacheslav Egorov.