Need of time – Waste management on Mt. Everest

Writing something for yourself and writing for somebody else two different things for me. When I write for myself, I keep nothing in my mind. I don’t think at all…about paragraphs, the grammar, punctuation..nothing. All you are you doing is freeing your mind and that is the only objective of me writing here in my blog. However, writing for somebody else is a whole different story altogether. You need to correct in every sense. A lot of research and studying to prove your point.

Here I am sharing my article I wrote for travelnepaltimes.com. For better view, please visit http://travelnepaltimes.com/tnt/keep-the-roof-of-the-world-intact/

Ever since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made it to the top of Mt. Everest in May 29, 1953, kissing the sky standing on the world’s highest peak has been the ultimate dream for many aspiring mountaineers.

The aim to climb up the arduous path to gain a sense of self accomplishment and serenity must be one of the many reasons why Nepal sees continuous visits of mountaineers to Mt. Everest. In 2013 spring climbing season alone, more than 500 climbers have scaled Mt. Everest from Nepal, which has broken all the previous records.

However, the cost of their dream lies heavy in the surrounding of the pristine peaks. The increasing influx of mountaineers to Mt. Everest as well as other Himalayas has led to degrading environmental effect in the form of unmanaged waste scattered carelessly in the surroundings.

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The enchanting Himalayas are slowly turning into large dumping sites with Mt. Everest leading the way.  The effects of the waste are not just limited to the mountains itself. Unfortunately, it has initiated a chain reaction that has unseen effects on locals who depend on the snow-fed rivers for their basic sustenance.

The country’s economy and more importantly the locals have had more than adequate benefits from the increasing number of tourists in the area. The quality of living among the locals in the region has enhanced, as well as the national revenues.

This is the major reason why there is an urgent need to work on the sustainability issues in order for the survival of both the locals and the country alike in environmental as well as economic level.

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Previously, various cleaning campaigns have been successfully launched within the area. For example, an expedition team of five led by Brent Bishop removed 5,000 pounds of rubbish from Mt. Everest in 1994.

The program has been instrumental to encourage various cleaning campaigns on the Everest then after.  Some prominent campaigns include Eco Everest expedition in 2008, which brought down 13,500 kilos of garbage consisting 400 kilos of human waste that takes decades to decompose at high altitude temperatures.

In 2011, The Nepal Tourism Board together with the Everest Summiteers Association (ESA) and Eco Himal launched the “Save Mt. Everest Campaign.” 29 Sherpas consisting of some of the most well known Sherpa guides on Everest working together for the cleanup program brought back 8 tons of waste.

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Besides the cleanup, Eco Himal is also working on providing alternatives for sustainable tourism such as turning the waste materials into combustible material like the briquette, providing alternative use of mineral water bottles and melting the cans and turning it into various souvenirs and selling them . This is not only a sustainable way of managing the waste but also provides employment to the locals.

Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) is also taking initiative to clean up the region. According to Devendra Dangol of TAAN, on the occasion of Diamond Jubilee of the first ascent of Mt. Everest, TAAN conducted a cleanup expedition from Lukla to the Everest Base Camp that concluded on June 1, 2013.The team of 15 brought back around 1,500 kgs of waste.

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According to him, the waste consisted of large number of mineral water bottles, plastic wraps of noodles and cans.

“Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC) has installed garbage bins at different areas in order to segregate the waste for easy recycling which a very good thing” says Dangol.

A joint expedition of Nepali and Indian army (14 from the Nepali Army and 20 from the Indian Army) also conducted the cleanup campaign in Everest during May 5-14 this year, which is quite exemplary. According to Mr. Jamwal, the Indian team leader “Still many similar type of campaigns are required and the most effective means to keep Everest clean is via awareness of the climbers”.

Members of the Indian Army Team participating on the Everest Cleaning Campaign

With growing awareness among local, climbers and other stakeholders, the government is also taking initiatives to keep the Everest clean by enforcing different laws such as one that requires each team members to carry their waste back to the Khumbu where it can be recycled or disposed in a proper manner. More commitment and effective programs from government is required.

It is important to understand that the cleaning campaigns are not the only solution for this problem.

Profile-PhinjoSherpaMr. Phinjo Sherpa, Country Director of Eco Himal, believes it is essential to train the locals regarding waste management. More than just merely cleaning up the waste, it is important to make sure that the garbage is properly disposed in the first place.

He further believes that clean up expeditions require a lot of money and sponsorship. Instead, he believes in empowering committees like SPCC by providing more authority and including as many domestic stakeholders as possible.

Mr. Sherpa has been organizing various programs in the region to provide awareness on reducing, reusing and recycling waste. He believes it is important even for the porters to be conscious about proper ways to discard waste.

True to his word, he has led various training programs related to waste management conducted in 14 schools so far, which has included 400 porters and 90 locals in the region.

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More importantly, the government needs to provide adequate legal as well as economic support to the stakeholders in order to diffuse information about the sustainability of the environment. It will also enable them to recycle the waste generated from thousands of tourist travelling in the Everest region each year. The government and the local authorities should be like two wheels of the same cart.

It is high time to gather a collective conscience and work towards keeping the roof of the world intact!!

A lot still needs to be done……

Image source:www.savingmounteverest.org

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