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Mountaineers who reach the peak of Mount Everest will now have to carry their waste back to the base camp in special bags, as authorities in Nepal are finally taking action against the pollution caused by climbers.
Amid growing concerns about the amount of human waste accumulating on the mountain trails, a new regulation has been put in place. The extreme cold temperatures prevent the waste from decomposing naturally.
The Pasang Lhamu municipality has stated that climbers must buy waste bags at the base camp and these will be inspected upon their return.
The regulation pertains to individuals who climb both Mount Everest and Mount Lhotse, as they are connected through the South Col.
The problem of human waste has been a source of worry for authorities in Nepal for several years. This is due to the increasing number of permits being issued each year, which ultimately leads to overcrowding on the mountains, according to experts.
Similar efforts have previously been put into action on different peaks, including Mount Denali in Alaska. These efforts have supposedly been positively received by operators of expeditions on Mount Everest.
The officials announce that the upcoming season for climbing in Nepal, which runs from March to May, will implement a new regulation.
The head of Pasang Lhamu rural municipality, Mingma Sherpa, spoke to BBC News about the concerns in the Everest region. He stated that they have been receiving reports of human waste on rocks and climbers getting sick, which is damaging their reputation and cannot be tolerated.
He said, “The smell of our mountains has started to become unpleasant.”
The Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee reports that approximately three tons of human waste can be found between camp one, situated at the foot of Mount Everest, and camp four, which is closer to the peak.
The CEO of the organization, Chhiring Sherpa, stated that approximately half of the amount is believed to be located in South Col, also known as camp four.
“Waste continues to be a significant problem, particularly in elevated camps that are inaccessible.”
The problem of excessive numbers of people is still unresolved by the authorities. In the previous year, Nepal issued an unprecedented 478 permits for climbing on the mountain, resulting in over 1,500 climbers, guides, and support staff traveling to the area.
The previous highest number was 409 in the year 2021.
The Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee is said to be purchasing around 8,000 poo bags from the United States. These bags will be handed out to climbers, sherpas, and support staff, with each individual receiving two bags that can be reused.
These bags contain substances that solidify human waste and greatly diminish its smell.
According to Jonathan Reilly, the director of the British Expedition Company, which coordinates treks to Everest base camp, the amount of waste on the mountain is absurd.
My inquiry is whether climbers will properly dispose of their waste bags when coming down the mountain, or if they will simply leave them behind, similar to dog owners leaving plastic bags of dog waste. This would be more detrimental than the current situation as the bags would prevent proper biodegradation of the waste.
I believe there may be climbers who will utilize the bags but ultimately leave them behind instead of bringing them back down the mountain.
Some individuals shared optimism. “It is definitely a promising development, and we are eager to contribute to its success,” stated Dambar Parajuli, the president of Nepal’s Expedition Operators Association, in an interview with the BBC.
Nepal boasts eight out of the 14 tallest mountains in the world. As reported by the Ministry of Tourism in Nepal, the government earned a total of $5.8 million from mountain tourism and $5 million specifically from Mount Everest until May 14th of last year.
The successful first climb of Everest by Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Edmund Hillary also commemorated its 70th anniversary last year.