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lakeside.gifThe Alps needs people's awareness to save itself, and Bollywood -- which shoots 15-20 films on an average in Europe's major mountain range average year -- can help in a big way, says the head of the organisation tasked with preserving its ecosystem. He hopes Shah Rukh Khan will personally deliver a message on Alpine conservation.

The Alps had clear climate-mitigation policies but needed the awareness of the people for halting environmental degradation, Alpine Convention Secretary General Marco Onida told a gathering of 150 international environmental journalists here.

'There is a clear division between civil and political society,' said the head of the Austria-based organisation that implements the international agreement on protection and sustainable development of the Alpine region. 'People's awareness on the fragility of the Alps is very low.'

The resultant overuse of water and other resources is placing a huge strain on the Alpine ecosystem, which can be reduced if Bollywood units shooting in the area are aware of it and also spread the message among the increasing number of Indian tourists, Onida said.

Shahrukh KhanThe Swiss government has made special efforts to invite Indian film units. It designed a special programme for them in the beginning of 2009, and is now trying to rope in units from Tamil, Telugu, Bengali and Malayalam films as well.

According to Alpine Convention figures, 15-20 Hindi films are shot in the Alps in an average year. Innsbruck, capital city in the state of Tyrol in the Austrian Alps, is not only a famous winter sports centre and hub of tourism but also a favourite Bollywood shooting destination.

Onida says the Bollywood brigade seems unaware of its environmental responsibility but is by no means the worst culprit. 'We have even rowdier and more destructive visitors from elsewhere in the continent,' Onida told IANS.

But, he hoped, '(Bollywood star) Shah Rukh Khan will deliver a public message on Alpine environmental conservation. It will win the hearts and minds of more than just his fan club.' Alps is Europe's major mountain system, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east, through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany, to France in the west.

With an area of over 207,000 sq. km, it is the main water source for Europe's major rivers like the Rhine, Po, Rhone and Danube.

The alpine permafrost, or permanently frozen subsoil, is no longer permanent, its temperatures have from 0.5 to 0.8 degrees Celsius in the last four decades, with decreasing snow cover.

'It's very worrying', says Onida, 'We are now facing a loss of Alpine biodiversity and migration of its fauna.' rain and snowfall patterns are changing and glaciers on the Alps have shrunk. There is also a newly-emerging phenomenon of natural disasters and hazards in the Alps with the thinning snows and the pressure to build new ski areas higher up on the glaciers.

In Galtur, the capital of the state of Tyrol in Austria and a famous winter sports centre and tourism hub, an avalanche in 1999 killed 31 people, sweeping houses in its path off the map.

On Dec 26, 2009, seven people, including four rescuers, were swept off in avalanches in the Trentino region of northern Italy. A BBC report quoted the head of Italy's civil service, Guido Bertolaso, as saying rescuers were being killed because people were ignoring warnings about conditions.


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