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Pollution – A growing concern for Mount Everest

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The number of aspirant Everest Climbers has been steadily rising over the decades since its successful ascent in the 1953 expedition. The number of permits issued by the tourism department is ever increasing with a record high of 408 permits issued for climbers this climbing season despite the pandemic [1]. Amongst the climbers, a major portion are foreigners and only a small portion of them are Nepali nationals. Most climbers climb to the summit with the assistance of their guides who are generally Sherpas. 

The climbers help generate income by paying taxes, revenues, and permit fees to the government. The locals of the mountain region are also bestowed with employment opportunities, but all this comes with a price tag that is much costlier.

Pollution level is steadily rising on the high mountain due to lack of infrastructures and regulations for solid waste management.

According to The Guardian, from snow samples collected from eleven different spots ranging from 5,300 meters to 8,440 meters showed the presence of Micro plastics. Basecamps had the highest concentration of the Micro-Plastics as climbers and trekkers spend most of their time at those locations.[2]

The plastic fibers are suspected to have originated from clothing, tents and ropes used by the climbers and their guides.

A selection of microfibres found in snow samples at 8,440m elevation on Mount Everest.

Section of Microfibers found in snow samples at 8,440m elevation on Mount Everest.

Photograph: Imogen Napper/National Geographic

In 2019, samples collected by a National Geographic expedition found an average of 30 micro plastics particles per liter of water from snow samples and 119 particles per liter from the most contaminated sample. [2]

The problem does not end here. Most Dead bodies of climbers are never evacuated from the mountain and remain there forever. The region above 8000 meters which is prone to causing climber deaths has gained its alias “Death Zone”.

Accumulation of waste and dead bodies is downplaying the reputation of the region in national and international sector. The scenario calls for an urgent response from all sectors who are either directly or indirectly connected with the issue. 

We need to find a balance between tourism, economy, and the environment.

References:

  1. https://kathmandupost.com/money/2021/05/29/everest-climbing-season-extended-to-june-3-in-a-rare-event-as-scores-wait-for-weather-to-clear
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/20/microplastic-pollution-found-near-summit-of-mount-everest
  3. https://trekebc.com/rainbow-valley-everest/#:~:text=Located%20below%20the%20northern%20ridge%20of%20Mt.%20Everest%2C,jackets%20of%20blue%2C%20red%2C%20orange%2C%20and%20green%20colors.
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