EDITORIAL: Taller than thought

Nepal should make detailed profiles of all peaks above 6,000m to promote tourism and tackle the issues of climate change

Mount Sagarmatha, also known as Mount Everest and Chomolungma, has now become a bit taller than earlier thought. It has become taller by 86 centimeters or about three feet. Now its official height is 8,848.86 m from the mean sea level. Till date, its height was considered to be 8,848 m although various countries and universities had also measured its height with varied elevations. The official height of the world’s tallest peak was announced at a virtual conferencing by Nepal and China on Tuesday, 14 months after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s two-day official visit to Nepal. During the visit, both the countries had agreed to ‘jointly announce’ the height of the peak. But they could not measure it jointly due to the spread of the coronavirus that forced the closure of the mountain from both the sides. A Nepali team had already reached the top of the peak during spring before the pandemic while the Chinese side climbed up there in the midst of the pandemic. Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Gyawali and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, announced its height through teleconferencing, putting the confusion shrouding its height to rest. The Nepali team, led by officials from the Department of Survey, had spent 41 days measuring its height from different points, including the one from Siraha, where a data station was set up.

Nepal had earlier decided to conduct a survey of the peak following suggestions that the tectonic movements and the 2015 earthquake may have affected its height. It is not clear whether Everest’s height was increased due to these reasons. The first measurement of its height was conducted in 1856 by British colonial geographers who had found it to be 8,840 metres above sea level. An Indian survey team adjusted its height to 8,848 after Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Edmund Hillary reached the summit on May 29, 1953. However, this is the first time that Nepal has measured Everest’s height using its own human resources and advanced technology available so far.

Nepal is home to the largest number of mountains above 8,000m, but we are focussed only on eight 8,000m peaks, where climbing permits have been issued.

In fact, Nepal actually has 14 mountains above 8,000 m. After successfully measuring the height of the tallest peak for the first time in 164 years of its first measurement, it is high time the government made a strategic plan to measure other peaks also. Of the total 1,792 peaks above 5,800 m, 414 have been opened for climbing. As a country of formidable mountains, Nepal should make detailed profiles of all mountains that are above 6,000 m. This measure will not only help promote tourism in the country but will also help tackle the problems of climate change caused by global warming that has adversely affected the Himalayan region, also known as the water tower of China, South and South-East Asia, which are also home to over two billion people, whose livelihood depends on the fresh waters flowing from there. With the standard height of Mt Sagarmatha announced by both Nepal and China, the world community will follow this official height without any question. From now onward, a mountaineer will be climbing 86 cm more to conquer the tallest peak in the world.

Gruesome murder

In what is an unusually grisly incident in recent times, the cadres of the Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) murdered a school principal in Morang in cold blood on Tuesday.

Rajendra Shrestha, the principal of Saraswoti Primary School, was abducted from his home and taken to a nearby forest, where he was killed by slitting his throat. The party has owned responsibility for the murder, accusing Shrestha of working as an informer for the police that had led to the arrest of its cadres. The incident reminds one of the gruesome murders and attacks by the Maoist cadres that took place during the decade-long insurgency to instill fear in the people.

It is regrettable that neither has the Maoist splinter group joined mainstream politics nor has the government been able to tame its cadres. As a result, its cadres go berserk from time to time, blowing up telecom towers, beating up officials, collecting donations by force and killing people. It is high time the government swung into decisive action to put an end to the atrocities of the party. The primary duty of the government is to maintain law and order in the country so that people can live in peace.