Kyrgyzstan Mountain Project

The Association for Intercultural Exchange and Development e.V. (Verein für kulturellen Austausch und Entwicklung e.V.) was founded in 1995 to support projects in developing countries, Its mission is “To care for intercultural exchange with people from developing countries and to combat poverty in close co-operation with multinational companies”.

The first projects undertaken by the organisation were in Yemen and Azerbaijan and involved developing health systems.

Kyrgyzstan is one of the poorest Post-Soviet countries and is located in central Asia, bordering China, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Its combination of cheap prices and the high number of peaks between 6-7000m has led to it becoming an increasingly popular destination for western mountaineers and trekkers.

The project aims to develop ecological and sustainable tourism in these mountain areas along with measures to clean, re-habilitate and improve trails, shelters and base camp areas. The most commonly climbed peak is Pik Lenin with more than ten travel agencies using its base camp with almost no regard to waste and contamination. Rubbish including sanitary waste is simply thrown into a crevasse from where it pollutes watercourses. The project aims to build a collaborative network to directly tackle these issues.

The Update

This project has achieved excellent results: Discussions about environmental protection in the area amongst local tour operators and other bodies using the area were undertaken and are ongoing. A code of conduct for waste management was developed in 2008 and all parties have signed up to it, and a website which is being used as a communication platform, has been set up.

Starting in June 2009 and continuing through July and August, local volunteers collected over 300 bags of rubbish from the mountain, up to an altitude of 6,100m. These were then carried down the mountain and airlifted out of the area by helicopter. Information signs were also installed to educate and advise people about environmental protection and what to do with their rubbish.

Travel agencies have now taken on the responsibility of educating their customers in the responsible sorting and disposal of their rubbish into specific containers located on the mountain, as well as the regular removal of the rubbish in these containers from the area. This is financed through the levy of an ‘environmental fee’ of US$25 for each visitor.

To raise awareness further amongst international mountaineers and tourists, the project was presented at the International Tourism Fair in Berlin in 2010.