Nepal | August 15, 2020

Independence Day 2020

Plan to clear Everest of bodies, trash

Rajan Pokhrel
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  • The base camp will be set up by the third week of April to start the mega campaign
Bags full of human waste, tents and garbage left behind by climbers above Camp II on Mt Everest. Photo courtesy: David Liaño

File – Bags full of human waste, tents and garbage left behind by climbers above Camp II on Mt Everest. Photo courtesy: David Liaño

Kathmandu, April 7

In a bid to keep the world’s highest mountain clean, Nepali stakeholders are all set to jointly launch a massive cleaning drive on Mt Everest this spring season.

The joint initiative planned by government and non-government agencies aims to collect bodies and the rubbish left behind by the climbers from the South Col (Camp IV) and Camp II of Mt Everest.

Mt Everest has long been stinking on ice as mountaineers treat it as a garbage dump abandoning oxygen bottles, tents, ladders, cans, wrappers as
well as piles of faeces and bags loaded with poop in higher camps, mainly in the South Col (7,900 m) and Camp II (6,500 m), every climbing season. It’s estimated that over 300 bodies of climbers are still entombed in ice on Mt Everest.

As per the plan shared by the stakeholders, the base camp will be set up by the third week of April to start the mega campaign. The two dedicated groups of Sherpa climbers having at least five members each will be deployed in Camp II and South Col to collect and wrap the garbage.

Once the garbage is collected and wrapped, climbers and support staff who visit the South Col and Camp II to set up tents as well as for the acclimatisation rotation will bring down the rubbish to the base camp. Those who descend with the garbage will also get monetary compensation.

The Department of Tourism estimates that at least 500 foreign climbers and over 1,000 climbing support staff will visit higher camps of Mt Everest this season as they prepare to scale the world’s highest peak as well as Mt Lhotse, the fourth tallest mountain. DoT’s record shows that over 300 foreign climbers, along with their support staff, have already left for Khumbu region to attempt to climb Mt Everest and Mt Lhotse. Most of the climbers often make a final summit push by the third week of May.

Talking to THT, DoT’s Director General Dandu Raj Ghimire claimed that it would be the biggest ever cleaning campaign on Mt Everest. “We expect to bring hundreds of tonnes of rubbish from the higher camps this season,” he said, urging the world climbers to join the noble campaign to keep Everest clean.

Though the government has long failed to implement its 2014 mountaineering rule, which states that each member of an expedition must bring back at least eight kilos of garbage, apart from their own trash from Mt Everest, Mt Lhotse and Mt Nuptse expeditions, many commercial expeditions end up leaving trash everywhere on the mountains. “But, the upcoming campaign should be an effective one,” Ghimire hoped.

The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Ministry of Environment, Nepali Army, Nepal Mountaineering Association, Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality and Nepal Tourism Board have already agreed to actively take part in the campaign. Though it’s a voluntary campaign, NMA Secretary Tika Ram Gurung hoped that most of the high altitude workers who carry loads to the higher camps would happily descend with the garbage. “They will not only be earning money from it but also contributing to the noble cause,” he said, adding that the payment rate for per kilo of garbage was being discussed.

As the estimated cost for the campaign stands at Rs 30 million, helping hands ranging from Coca-Cola Company to the World Wildlife Fund, as well as private businesses and financial institutions, will also be providing significant financial assistance, Gurung said. “The campaign will continue in the coming years.”SPCC Chairman Ang Dorje Sherpa said at least two icefall doctors would be deployed in higher camps to facilitate the campaign. “SPCC will monitor the campaign activities from the base camp,” he said.  “Non-disposable garbage will be airlifted to Kathmandu.”

Damber Parajuli, president of the Expedition Operators Association of Nepal, said that EOAN would fully support the campaign. “All climbers will happily chip in,” he added.


A version of this article appears in print on April 08, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.


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