Mountain studies in the remote Pamirs-1998-05-17
An international commission has been set up to look into plans for an institute specialising in mountain studies in the high Pamir range, which is one of the poorest and most remote regions in Central Asia. It is hoped that the centre, planned for southeastern Tajikistan, will help open the region up to the world. The BBC Central Asia correspondent Louise Hidalgo has just been to the Pamir Mountains and sent this report:
The Great Pamir are one of the highest mountain ranges in the world, linking into the Hindu Kush and the Karakoram to the south and to the Tien Shan Mountains to the east. They are also one of the most remote regions on earth.
For months on end, the only certain access that the people of the Pamir have to the outside world is a long mountainous highway north to neighbouring Kyrgyzstan. It's an isolation that the Pamiris are desperate to break.
Unlike other Tajiks, most are Ismailis and it was their revered spiritual leader, the Aga Khan, who first suggested an institute that would attract experts in mountain studies to this remote region from around the world.
An international commission has been set up to work out how this can be done; it's due to report to the Tajik government and the Aga Khan soon and, if approved, officials say, the first undergraduate courses could begin in the next few years, drawing students from around Central Asia.
There they will learn how to manage economies, agriculture and the environment in high mountain areas and to deal with the aftermath of earthquakes. It is an ambitious plan that will require millions of dollars of funding, and it's far from clear how the resources needed can be brought to this lonely corner of the earth.
But for the Pamiris, the project offers a chance at last to find a place on the world map.