The tallest peak of the world, first scaled successfully by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary in 1953, has been a tourist attraction for a long time. Now, with modern equipment, more and more trekkers are joining in the battle to brave Mt. Everest. By June 2018, 600 people had already climbed this giant mountain. What’s the result? The tallest peak is now the highest dumping ground on Earth! A manmade cesspit.
A tough spot
Nepal is one of the poorest countries and for them, Mt. Everest and tourists are the only source of steady income. The rush to the mountain began when Edmund Hillary had first scaled it. Currently going up to a rate of $100,000, tourist services and hotels have been set up – making it a place of adventure for wealthy trekkers and a fixed income for local Sherpas and the tourist industry. But this has backfired. It has brought in many disrespectful tourists that do not care about the natural beauty of the place. They litter the mountain with discarded gear and gas cannisters that are left behind for others to pick up. Pollution is on the high – but even when the government tried to stop tourism for a clean-up, the locals revolted against the enforced halt on their only source of income. Mt. Everest is in a tough spot between environmental concerns and sustenance of local people. It makes it tougher to control tourist-generated waste and it keeps on piling along the routes to the summit – endlessly.
We are in it together
Experienced trekkers understand the problem. They blame the inexperienced trekkers for it. Previously, the trekkers would take their personal kits like sleeping bags, food, and extra oxygen up to the mountain. With more and more tourists coming in, trekkers take Sherpas with them to handle all their personal items. What about the waste? It stays behind. Global warming has revealed a worse state than we could have imagined. The melting glaciers have revealed masses of garbage left behind since the time of Edmund Hillary!
No efforts seem to be working
The government is trying to do something about it though. They have begun a ‘fine’ system for the tourists. In Nepal, tourists have to pay $4,000 as a rubbish deposit, which is refunded if they brought down 18 pounds of waste. On the Tibet side, they have to bring down the same amount, and if they don’t do it – they have to shell out $100 per kilogram. But most of the climbers just don’t care. They would bribe the locals to turn a blind eye. Plus, the Everest experience is expensive in itself – going up to $100,000. For these rich tourists, a deposit of $4,000 is just another penny in the pot. They are least bothered to help.
There is still hope
Pollution is already becoming a major issue in the area. Human excreta can seep into the ice floor and flow down as water polluting the major rivers that generate from Mount Everest. Plus, the locals clean the mountain and dump the waste in local trenches which do no good either. It piles up as waste and gets washed down during monsoons into the lower-level villages and rivers. Nothing really changes. Plans to have a biogas plant is in the making, but it’s a long-term thing and needs a massive investment which Nepal can’t afford. Ang Tsering Sherpa has come up with a better solution – a dedicated rubbish team. They have worked for the last decade and brought down 18 tons of waste. It’s a difficult job but Tsering is not someone who will give up that easily. All he asks is the support of the government and stricter rules against the garbage dumping by tourists.
A personal responsibility
As humans, we are the only ones who can perceive ‘beauty’. Yet, we are the ones who destroy it again and again. What Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay achieved is now being destroyed by us and our lazy littering. It’s time we start taking some responsibility for our actions and actually begin preserving our planet.
If you are feeling a bit concerned, you’re already taking a step on the better path. A bit of awareness and a bit of personal responsibility can do volumes for the planet. Everest does not need our filth – let’s make it the innocent, beautiful mountain that it was in the past, before 1953!