Efforts to Clean Mount Everest: An Uphill Task to Scrap the Heap
Mount Everest, standing at a towering height of 29,032 feet, is not just the highest peak in the world, but also an esteemed emblem of the grit and perseverance of adventurers. While the allure of Mount Everest continues to enthral mountaineers worldwide, the unfortunate downside is the accumulation of waste left behind by the climbers over the years, damaging its pristine and delicate ecosystem.
The Magnitude of the Waste Problem on Mount Everest
For several decades, Everest has been grappling with a mounting garbage issue. Popularly referred to as ‘the world’s highest garbage dump,’ the mountain collected a substantial amount of trash, including oxygen cylinders, tents, cans, plastic bottles, food waste, and even human excreta. The waste problem was exacerbated by difficult access and harsh weather conditions, making clean-up operations a challenging task.
The Clean-Up Expeditions
Recognising the scale of the problem, authorities and mountaineering agencies have been organizing cleanup campaigns in recent years. The biggest of these was the 2019 Mega Everest Expedition led by the Nepal Government, where a dedicated team of 12 Sherpas collected around 24,000 lbs of trash in 45 days, including 600 kgs of human waste dumped in crevasses.
Enforcing New Regulations
To address this enduring issue, the Nepal Government has enforced regulations, making it mandatory for each climber to bring back at least 18 pounds of trash, the estimated amount a climber discards on the ascent. Violation of this rule could lead to legal implications, including banning the climber from future expeditions. These regulations have led to an increased amount of trash being removed from Everest annually.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Waste Removal
In 2020, as the world grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, the climbing season was suspended, leading to a temporary halt on human impact and an opportunity for nature to rejuvenate. Subsequently, in 2021, as climbers returned to Everest, the authorities took additional measures to ensure waste removal. Resultantly, Everest may have been cleaner in these years compared to the pre-pandemic era.
The Road Ahead: Sustainable Mountaineering
While significant strides have been made in cleaning up Mount Everest, the long-term solution lies in sustainable mountaineering practices. Before culminating into an ecological crisis, a collective effort from the mountaineering community, Nepal Government, and environmental organizations must ensure that Mount Everest remains an inspiring symbol of human ambition without leaving a detrimental footprint on the natural heritage.
1. How much trash has been removed from Mount Everest in recent years?
Approximately 24,000 lbs of trash were removed in a significant clean-up campaign in 2019 alone. Strict enforcement of new rules by the Nepal Government, requiring each climber to descend with at least 18 pounds of trash, has also facilitated the continuous removal of waste over the years.
2. What kind of waste is found on Mount Everest?
The trash mainly consists of oxygen cylinders, unused equipment, tents, food wrappers, cans, plastic bottles and human excreta.
3. Who is responsible for cleaning Mount Everest?
While various private initiatives by mountaineering agencies contribute to clean-up efforts, the Nepal Government has been at the forefront, organizing major expeditions and implementing strict regulations.
4. What is being done to prevent littering on Mount Everest?
In addition to the enforced rule requiring climbers to bring back their trash, emphasis is also being placed on promoting sustainable mountaineering practices, creating awareness among climbers about ecological conservation.
5. How has the COVID-19 pandemic influenced the trash problem on Everest?
The cancellation of the climbing season in 2020 due to COVID-19 led to a halt in human activity on Everest. This might have temporarily reduced the generation of waste, granting nature an opportunity to rejuvenate.