Everest drive: Sherpas slam Nepal’s plan to clean up ‘world’s highest rubbish dump’
The government says the Army will be used for the task, which will cost 860 million Nepali rupees ($7.5 million). But Sherpas say the Army cannot reach the highest peaks of the Himalayas -- it's something only they can do.
Mount Everest, dubbed the “world’s biggest rubbish dump”, is facing a mounting pollution problem as corpses, human faeces, tents, empty bottles, plastic and other waste have been accumulating on the peak's snowy slopes for decades.
Now, the Nepal government is planning to clear 35,000 kg of rubbish from Mount Everest and five other Himalayan peaks, but with the help of the country’s Army. This has irked top Sherpa guides and they say that the Army cannot reach the highest peaks of the Himalayas -- it's something only they can do.
"They collected garbage from lower altitudes," said Kami Rita Sherpa, who has scaled the world's highest mountain a record 24 times.
"They should mobilize Sherpas to clean up garbage from higher elevations. Only Sherpa guides and porters can do that. They should be given proper compensation to clean up the mountains," he told BBC Nepali.
The government says the Army will be used for the task, which will cost 860 million Nepali rupees ($7.5 million). Last year, they managed to clear about 10,000kg of waste from the region.
Every year people visit Nepal from across the globe to climb the peak. The dangerous ascent has become so popular that the mountain has been plagued by dangerous – and deadly – overcrowding.
A "traffic jam" occurs on the Everest when many climbers vie for the summit at the same time and can be especially dangerous above 8,000 metres.
Pictures taken near the peak last year show long lines of climbers waiting to reach the summit, in an area with extreme conditions and low oxygen that's known as the "death zone."
Exhausted climbers are at increased risks of exhaustion, frostbite or altitude sickness. They could also run out of oxygen.
In 2019, Everest witnessed 11 deaths. Many of the bodies are left on the mountains, so need to be brought down as part of the clean up.
Climbers often abandon oxygen and cooking gas cylinders, climbing gear and other rubbish like food wrappers, cans and bottles in their attempts to reach the summits.
But it extremely risky and hard to bring items down from the higher reaches. Bodies and rubbish have been lying for decades in the snow and ice.
"Climbing Sherpas are the right people to clean up the peaks," Purba Tashi Sherpa, who's scaled Everest 21 times, said. "The government should keep that in mind."
Nepali Army spokesman Bigyan Dev Pandey said he was confident his team would be able to reach the upper areas during this year's clean up, which ends on June 5.
"We are learning from our mistakes and working hard to clean up the mountains, including the higher elevations." he told BBC Nepali.
Nepal’s government has now implemented several measures to encourage people not to litter, asking for a $400 deposit, which is returned if they bring their waste back down with them.
But it is not easy, the Sherpas acknowledge. Even with their skills, they can struggle.
Ang Tshering Sherpa, the former president of Nepal Mountaineering Association, told BBC Nepali: "It's really hard to bring back heavy cylinders or dead bodies from the higher camps.
"Sherpa often risk their lives to do so. Most of the iced bodies weigh as much as 150kg, and that looks impossible for Sherpas to bring down."