Eight Kilograms of Garbage

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More than sixty years ago, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay went where no man had gone before. They conquered the peak of Mount Everest, which has previously defeated or killed people. Sixty year after their adventurous journey, Mt. Everest, nowadays, isn’t a lonely place. More than 3,500 people have successfully climbed the mountain. In 2012, 234 people reached the peak in one particular day. Gradually, this desolated mountain has become crowded. But, the climbers are not a danger to Mount Everest. The danger comes from what they leave behind: empty oxygen canisters, torn tents, clothes, glass, papers, human waste and the climbers’ bodies.

The climbing route consists of five camps (base camp at 17,600 feet and four other camps close to the summit). The rough estimate of trash found in these five camps after the first successful expedition amounts to 50 to 120 tons. From a climber’s perspective, dropping used things rather than carrying them could save lot of energy and weight. Climbing Everest, even under the best of conditions is a dangerous and exhausting task. So, the littering in mountain can’t be compared with tossing a bottle in a city park, but still, the trash is ruining one of the unique places on our planet.

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Some of the passionate trekkers have taken it upon themselves to clean up Everest. From 2008, as part of Eco Everest Expedition, Thelen and Eberhard Schaaf are cleaning up trash from base camp to summit. They alone have said to collect nearly 13 tons of garbage. A joint Indian-Nepal military team has also collected over 2 tons of garbage on the slopes of the mountain. In 2012, 15 Nepali artists took the trash and spent a month creating upwards of 75 sculptures (from 1.7 tons of garbage). They transformed empty oxygen cylinders and other climbing equipments into something artistic. It raised awareness about the litter surrounding Everest and part of the proceeds from the sales went to Everest Summiteers Association, which have helped further to collect more tons of debris.

Arts made from Mt. Everest garbage

Arts made from Mt. Everest garbage

However, there are still large numbers of garbage strewn across the slopes. China has taken measures to clean up Everest by limiting the climbers from its side. But, the Chinese route to the summit is not the most favored route for the climbers. Few days earlier, Nepal’s tourism ministry official, Mr. Madhusudan Burlakoti have brought new law, which states that climbers ascending must bring an extra 8 kilograms (about 17.6 pounds) of trash down to Base Camp from their hike. He said authorities would take legal action against those who violate this rule, although it is unclear whether this would involve fine or imprisonment or confiscation of their mandatory deposit. The irony, here is, only in February 2014, the Nepal government slashed fees for individual climbers to attract more mountaineers, which sparked concerns of increasing garbage.

Enforcement of this rule, at this point, could only be met with skepticism. Nepal is almost a failed state, where corruption is rife and the only thing that generates big bucks is the tourism. Reckless adventurers pay tens of thousand dollars for permits to hike Mount Everest. Considering the corruptive nature of Nepali government, it is unlikely that they will take extreme actions, which in turn might stop this cash flow. However, it looks like a very optimistic figure, if each climber took back 8 kg of garbage. Rules like these can also seek more attention on the waste problem and on clean-up projects that have been organized by Environmental and climbing groups.

Let’s hope that this rule is implemented effectively, or else, Mt. Everest will become World’s highest garbage dumping place.

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