• Wed. Nov 30th, 2022

Everest base camp threatened by climate change

ByDebra J. Aguilar

Sep 16, 2022

Mount Everest Base Camp, a sprawling tent village that hosts hundreds of aspiring summiteers and support personnel during climbing season, may soon be on the move.

Nepalese officials say they are considering moving to a lower elevation because the Khumbu glacier on which the camp sits is melting due to climate change, which is undermining its foundations and slowly releasing decades of frozen waste. and human waste.

But some of the Sherpa climbing guides who make Everest climbs possible are not happy with the idea, arguing that the government should first consider less drastic measures such as limiting the astronomical number of climbing permits. escalation, which, at around $11,000 each, have become a major source of income. income for the country.

“I see glaciers disappearing daily. The uncontrollable number of visitors is a problem and it makes no sense to move the base camp down,” said Dawa Chhiri Sherpa, 57, who started his career as a cook for a trekking company there. 35 years.

“Consulting with experts and relevant stakeholders is what the government should do and not rush into a decision,” agreed Kay Sherpa, 62, who was born in Scotland and has lived in Nepal since 2009.

He added that the government should try to reduce the influx of helicopters carrying climbers and other visitors to the landing pads at either end of the approximately 22-hectare site to minimize damage to the area ecologically. brittle.

A historical image of the earlier base camp of Mount Everest, Nepal (photo by Shafkat Masoodi)

Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism recommended earlier this summer that a seven-person research group be formed with National Mountaineering Association President Nima Nuru Sherpa as chairman. The committee’s mission would be to investigate the current location of the base camp and potential relocation options.

Taranath Adhikari, chief executive of the tourism department, said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. that the idea was to move the camp entirely from the rapidly retreating glacier to a level about 330 meters lower on the mountain.

“It’s basically about adapting to the changes we’re seeing at base camp, and that’s become essential for the sustainability of the mountaineering activity itself,” he told the BBC. .

The Khumbu Glacier has lost the equivalent of 2,000 years of ice in just 30 years, according to a study conducted by National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition 2019.

This problem is compounded by the large number of visitors to the camp, where more than 1,500 people stay for at least two months during the climbing season. More affluent climbers can enjoy relatively luxurious accommodation including hot showers, Wi-Fi and catered meals, while acclimating to the altitude of 5,364 meters.

Dawa Chhiri Sherpa points to the summit of Mount Everest, Nepal.  (Adventure courtesy of Altitude Expedition)

Dawa Chhiri Sherpa points to the summit of Mount Everest, Nepal. (Adventure courtesy of Altitude Expedition)

The proposed move makes sense for Shilshila Acharya, who has played a leading role in efforts to clean up the huge amount of rubbish that has accumulated around base camp since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa reached the summit in 1953.

“Once the waste is accumulated there, cleaning up the mountains is a very risky and expensive job,” said Acharya, the director of Avni Ventures Pvt Ltd., which is an official recycling partner of the Mountain Clean Up 2021 campaigns. and 22. Moving the camp would at least temporarily make cleanup easier and have safety benefits, she told VOA.

Based on current estimates that the government spends $1.5 million to $2 million a year on cleanup, “it will take another 50 to 100 years to clean up the existing waste from all the mountains,” she said. . “So it’s going to be expensive in the long run if nothing is done about it.”

View of the south side of Mount Everest in Nepal (photo by Shafkat Masoodi)

View of the south side of Mount Everest in Nepal (photo by Shafkat Masoodi)

Shafkat Masoodi, a veteran trekker from Kashmir who visited the base camp in 2018, argued the government needed to act quickly to relocate the camp and limit the number of climbing permits issued each season.

“It will prove disastrous in the near future” if they do not act, he said. “Just imagine the number of climbers per season supported by nearly double the number of Sherpas and porters spending at least six months a year in these glaciers. The garbage and human waste dumped by these only transforms the glacier Khumbu into a polluted river flowing down the mountains.

But Anja Bagale, operations manager at the Himalaya Hotel in Kathmandu, pointed out that the current location of the base camp was chosen by experienced Sherpa guides as it is the safest and most convenient place to launch. a final three to five day assault on the summit. He argued that the solution is to limit traffic to the site, not displace it.

Ramesh Bhushal, Nepali editor of Third Pole and an environmental journalist based in Kathmandu, also wondered if the underlying issues troubling the base camp would be solved by moving it.

“I don’t see any valid point in moving Everest base camp as it won’t solve any problem as stated and maybe increase the problems in [the] future,” he said. “But it’s also okay to think about how to deal with the issues that forced the government to consider this idea of ​​changing the base camp.”