ISLAMABAD Over 70 paintings from the 32 schools were put on display at the Heritage Museum Gallery here at the Lok Virsa in relation to the International Mountain Day. The event entitled 'Youth Art Exhibition and Seminar was organised by the Development Communications Network (DEVCOM-Pakistan) in collaboration with the Lok Virsa and WWF-Pakistan in connection with the launching of the 2nd Pakistan Mountain Fest that is aimed at mainstreaming the mountain development challenges while commemorating the International Mountain Day 2010. It was an impressive and well-attended opening event largely participated by the youth, their teachers and parents. Khalid Javaid, Executive Director Lok Virsa, and Abdul Munaf Qaimkhani, DIG Forest were guests of honour on the occasion. The theme for the International Mountain Day 2010 is Mountain Minorities and Indigenous Peoples. It aims to raise awareness about indigenous peoples and minorities who live in mountain environments and the relevance of their cultural heritage, traditions and customs. This years International Mountain Day provides an apt occasion to reflect on how important it is to empower indigenous communities and help them promote and preserve traditional knowledge, including sciences, agricultural practices, responses to global change, medicines and health practices, fauna and flora, oral traditions, crafts and arts. Seventy three entries from children of thirty schools belonging to Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Kharian, Jhelum and Taxila were received for the art competition on the themes related to mountain, people, resources and environment which were judged by a jury including eminent art and craft experts and painters. The judges included Asif Javaid Shahjahan, Director Museum of the Lok Virsa, Natasha Iqbal, curator Rohtas Gallery, Najam-ul-Hassan Kazmi, eminent miniaturist, Azeem Khan, painter and architect. Two age groups including junior group of 10-14 years and the senior group of 15-20 years was constituted for the competition. The size of the artwork was 14 x 20 inches on cardboard in water or oil colours, crayons, acrylics and charcoal. All participants were given certificates in recognition of their participation in the art competition. Nine entries were given special prizes from the two categories. In junior category children who received prizes included Syed Farasat Ali, Asad Shah and Faisal from Beacon House, Joudat Bilal from Bahria College, and Anna Saeed from the City School. In senior category, Shumaila from FG Margalla College F-7/4, Adil Dar from Bahria College, Hamza Hashmi from Beacon House and Faryal Yazdani from Roots School got prizes. Six prizes were given to the students from 'pehli kiran schools operating in slums (katchi abadis) in Islamabad. DIG Forests, Abdul Munaf Qaimkhani, while speaking on the occasion said, Pakistans mountain have rich biodiversity and offer also diversity of mountain minorities, we need to respect and recognize their contribution that live on the frontlines of climate change. He said that the Government had several projects in collaboration with the NGOs to protect mountain ecosystems that were lifeline for the people down stream. He said, however, immediate steps should be taken in partnership of communities to stop illegal over exploitation of natural resource and indiscriminate tree chopping on the high altitudes to slow down climate change and avert heavy losses to human lives and wildlife. He was of the view that the indiscriminate tree chopping has shifted the snowline upward that show the decline in the natural resources. Speaking on the occasion, ED Lok Virsa Khalid Javed said, Culture is the whole way of life of a community, comprising its various forms of creative and artistic expression. Culture represents the awareness of a society regarding its values, aims and aspirations ensuring peoples full participation in nation building efforts. Explaining initiatives of Lok Virsa aiming at benefit youth, Khalid Javaid said, Lok Virsas special focus is on youth community because in our view, they have a great potential which we need utilise for the development of the country. Under our popular slogan 'Harnessing Culture for Education, we have created eight children folklore societies in various parts of the country including remotest regions of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces with a view to inculcate consciousness among school children about their indigenous culture and folk heritage. Riffat Ara Baig, National Programme Coordinator of the DEVCOM-Pakistan, said that Pakistan Mountain Fest, an annual feature to commemorate the International Mountain Day in collaboration with several development partners. She said the Pakistan Mountain Fest would be a bold and strong instrument to mainstream the challenges confronting mountain communities and the people downstream. The observance of the International Mountain Day aims at drawing attention to the important roles that mountainous regions play in water and food security, and also to highlight the diverse mountain culture.