Mount Everest, Nepal’s tourism trump card is a huge draw among tourists. From being a virgin peak less than 60 years ago, it witnesses heavy traffic of climbers and porters each climbing season these days.
Last year 32,000 tourists and 80,000 support staff visited the region — a huge leap from 1400 annual visitors four decades ago.
Such attraction despite being a boon for the local economy has side effects. Pressure from mountaineering expeditions has led to erosion, deforestation and turned Everest into the world’s highest garbage dump.
The trail from Lukla, the nearest airport, till Everest Base Camp and beyond is littered with oxygen cylinders, gas cartridges, tents, plastic, human waste and even carcasses.
I witnessed the grim scene first hand last year. Over the past 2-3 years, a few mountaineering expeditions have tried to rid the trail and the mountain of these garbage sores. But nearly eight tons of waste still lies littered.
Now, in an effort to restore Everest to its past glory, Nepal government and a host of national and international groups have come together as part of the Saving Mount Everest 2011-2012 project.
“A clean up expedition will be organised from mid April to June this year to collect and remove the eight tons of garbage,” says Phinjo Sherpa, Director, Eco Himal, one of the participating agencies.
Sherpa insists unlike previous campaigns it won’ be a one-time operation. The project would work with the local community to develop a sustainable waste management mechanism.
Other expected outcomes of the project are implementing policies on waste disposal and management stringently, installing 15 waste management plants and training 100 local residents to manage them. But cleaning the world’s highest dustbin is not a cheap task.
This year alone the total budget for the project is $780,000. Nearly two-third of this sum has been pledged through donations. To know more about this clean-up campaign and contribute funds visit www.savingmounteverest.org .