Everest is Now High Altitude Garbage

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In a recent Kathmandu Post article, Suzanne OConnell, a Harold T Stearns Professor of Earth Science at Wesleyan University, and Alton C Byers, a Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado Boulder, refer Mt. Everest, a high altitude garbage.

According to Suzzane and Alton, more than 60,000 adventurers visit to Sagarmatha National Park every year, home to the iconic Mt. Everest and other mighty peaks in Nepal. Among them, about 400 to 500 courageous individuals attempt to conquer the mountain summit. However, this excitement of adventure comes with a high price: trash.

The Mt. Everest garbage problem is not new, the authors duo write. According to them, the problem started in the 1980s and 1990s when more people started climbing and trekking in the Khumbu region. Since then, more people have been reportedly coming to the mountain, which has made the problem worse. Media reports have often been highlighting bleak scenes, such as frozen remains of climbers who were left on the mountain because of the risks and costs of removing them.

Experts like Alton Byers, who has extensive research on the area, advocate for modern solutions and international cooperation to combat this crisis. Trash, including microplastics and hazardous chemicals, pollutes Everest’s pristine environment and threatens the health of nearby communities.

The journey to Everest base camp, located at an altitude of 17,589 feet, begins at Lukla Airport, about 35 miles away. Climbers spend weeks acclimatizing before they attempt the summit, during which tons of supplies are carried by animals and porters. As a result, the area generates about 4.6 tons of garbage daily during peak seasons, write Suzzane and Alton.

Because the trash doesn’t go away, it’s either gets burned and pollutes the air, or it’s dumped into landfills near local villages, and pollutes the groundwater. Even the Everest’s base camp is said to be full of garbage and sewage.

But efforts are said to be being made underway to manage the crisis. A Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, which was reportedly started by Sherpa locals, to clean-up the area. The government also said to mandates climbers to bring back their trash or loose their deposit money. Sagarmatha Next said to promote eco-tourism through raising awareness and implementing waste management programs.

The University of Colorado Boulder, where the authors are associated with, has reportedly proposed a waste management plan, but was delayed by the pandemic, that would try to recycle waste. In collaboration with the Nepal Tourism and the NeverRest Project, said to envision high-tech solutions like solar tents and incinerator toilets for Everest’s base camp.

The authors write that it’s time not to tarnish the Everest’s legacy by trash, mountain enthusiasts are commemorating the 71st anniversary of Everest’s first ascent. Together, with concerted efforts and innovative solutions, we can preserve this natural wonder for future generations, write Suzzane and Alton.