13 Dec 2006 14:17:40 GMT
KIEV, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Seven European nations sharing the Carpathian mountains agreed on Wednesday to do more to protect the environment to help attract tourists and safeguard wildlife such as brown bears, lynx and eagles.
The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine also agreed at talks in Kiev to set up a network of protected areas and hiking trails in the Carpathians, which cover an area 10 percent bigger than the Alps.
"The Carpathians of central and eastern Europe are among the world's richest regions in terms of biodiversity and pristine landscapes," said Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Programme, after a three-day meeting of environment ministers.
"I have no doubt that the Carpathians, like the Alps, the Himalayas and the Rocky Mountains, will become world famous for walking, hiking, climbing, wildlife watching, photography and similar leisure pursuits," he said in a statement.
Tourism could bring investments to remote areas which are suffering from increased unemployment and poverty since the collapse of communism. More investment could also help slow deforestation, excessive hunting and pollution.
Governments would organise a conference in 2007 to discuss the planned network of protected areas, similar to one already in the Alps. They also agreed to help towns in the region to curb pollution and safeguard the environment.
The nations would also set up a "Via Carpati", a network of hiking trails and mountain huts. Gerlachov Peak in Slovakia is the highest in the region, at 2,655 metres (8,711 ft).
The countries would also seek to protect wildlife ranging from rare plants to brown bears, wolves, European bison, lynx and Imperial eagles.