We see little help forthcoming for the Sherpas from other Everest summiteers who have made a name for themselves

Even after 68 years of the conquest of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, the charm of climbing the world's tallest peak has not faded. Everest is Nepal's identity and the country's star tourist attraction, which lures tens of thousands of foreigners every year on treks and expeditions to the region. Nepal has been celebrating May 29 as Everest Day to commemorate the day Hillary and Tenzing climbed the peak in 1953 to give a boost to its tourism through publicity. Now in a pleasant surprise, New York State has officially introduced May 29 as Everest Day, which should not only give Nepal's tourism a shot in the arm but also give the Sherpas, who put in a lot of hard work to place climbers on the summit, the recognition they deserve. Jennifer Rajkumar, member of the New York State Assembly, had officially introduced the resolution proclaiming Everest Day, and said it would be celebrated at the Albany Assembly Hall from next year. Hopefully, other states of the United States will follow the example of New York.

Standing tall at 8,849 metres, Everest dwarfs all other peaks in the Himalayan range, making it the ultimate in mountaineering. It is a dangerous mountain to climb, yet thousands of alpinists, mostly foreigners, have made it to the summit over the past near seven decades. However, many of them might not have been able to scale the peak without the contribution of the Sherpas, who not only guide the climbers along the treacherous route but also porter food and other supplies to the camps.

Yet the Sherpa community continues to wallow in poverty, with the poor income from working as porters or guides unable to provide them a decent living standard. Sir Edmund Hillary is fondly remembered by the Sherpas for his philanthropy in bringing development to the region. He had helped build an airport at Lukla, the gateway to the Everest region, while opening clinics, hospitals and schools for the welfare of the Sherpa community. He had also used his influence to aid in the establishment of Sagarmatha National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the region. However, we see little of such help forthcoming from the thousands of other climbers who have made a name for themselves at the expense of the Sherpas. Even the international news agencies show bias, deleting the names of the Sherpas who accompany the expedition members to the summit.

While we are thrilled by what publicity about Everest can do for our tourism, let us, however, not forget what unrestricted number of expeditions have done to the region and the mountain. Everest has also come to be known as the world's highest dump, with bodies of dead climbers, garbage and filth strewn along the route to the different camps. And in more recent years, climate change has also come to haunt the region. Apart from risks of glacier lake outburst floods in the Everest region, the receding snowline on Everest is starting to worry locals, environmentalists and tourism entrepreneurs. Hopefully, many of these problems will be highlighted when New York State begins celebrating Everest Day and reward the cheerful Sherpas handsomely for the immense work they do to make an expedition a success.

Improve health system

Easy access to quality health service is still a far cry for majority of the people, especially those living in the rural parts of the country. Even people who suffer from common ailments are forced to travel to the federal capital or other urban centres due to lack of basic health care services in their vicinity. The government has spent billions of rupees to upgrade the primary health centres in the rural areas, but they have not been able to provide healthcare services to the local people for lack of qualified doctors.

The situation is so dire that a pregnant woman has to be airlifted to a nearby hospital when she undergoes labour pain. Pregnant women could be treated at the primary health centres if the government were to make adequate investment on them. One can, therefore, see the challenge in providing quality health services to those suffering from diseases like kidney failure, heart problems or cancer. In this context, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, addressing a function here on Monday, stressed the need to develop Bharatpur Cancer Hospital as a national cancer institution. If it were to develop into a state-of-the art facility, cancer patients would not need to go abroad for expensive treatment.

A version of this article appears in the print on October 6, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.