On April 14, Nepal launched a clean-up campaign on Mount Everest that has now collected thousands of kilograms of solid waste, reported the Himalayan Times. In the 45 days since its inception, the ‘Everest Cleaning Campaign’ led by Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality in Nepal’s Solukhumbu district cleaned up 3,000 kg of solid waste.
Of the 3,000 kg collected, 2,000 kg of biodegradable waste was sent to Okhaldhunga to be disposed, said Director General of Nepal’s Department of Tourism Dandy Raj Ghimire.
The remaining non-biodegradable trash will first be transported to Namche town, where it will showcased on World Environment Day on June 5. After that, it will be flown to Kathmandu for disposal.
The programme aims to collect a total of 10,000 kg of Mount Everest waste—2,000 from the South Col region, 3,000 from Camp II and Camp III, and 5,000 from the Base Camp.
The full campaign costs around 23 million Nepalese rupees and is the combined efforts of Nepal’s Ministries of Environment, and Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Army, Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, Mountaineering Association, and Khumu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality.
“The goal is to send the message that we should keep this mountain pollution free,” said Secretary of the Nepal Mountaineering Association Tika Ram Gurung.
The Mount Everest waste problem
Garbage and waste on Mount Everest has become a serious problem over the years. As a popular destination for tourists and trekkers, the Himalayan range often becomes a site to dump plastic bottles, food wrappers, oxygen tanks, and trekking equipment. Bags of human feces are also dumped on the mountainside, says the Himalayan Times.
Alton Buyers, a mountain geologist, told Live Science that while waste on the mountain needs to be addressed, a more pressing issue is garbage around the area. Buyers explains that trash in the Himalayan range comes from three main sources: litter from trekkers and climbers, from nearby residential areas, and human excrement.
Even unclaimed and uncollected dead bodies on the mountainside have become a problem. Nepal and China have both promised to remove the bodies of over 200 climbers from Mount Everest that are either strewn on the landscape or frozen into the ice and snow.
Mount Everest and the Himalayas at large aren’t the only regions to suffer from poor waste management. Popular attractions around the world have similar issues of piling garbage.
The United Nations Environment Programmes said that around 4.8 million tons of solid waste—14% of the total solid waste produced—comes from tourists around the world.
Business Insider published a list of tourist destinations that are famous for their relationship with poor trash collection.
Dead Horse Bay in Brooklyn, a shore populated with plastic and glass bottles, Slab For The Ruhr in Germany, artwork painted on a huge slab of mining waste, and Glass Beach in California, a beach where littered shards of glass have eventually been shaped into gems, are some of those destinations.
Ladakh’s Pangong Lake that was featured in 3 Idiots and Jab Tak Hai Jaan is also being littered by thousands of tourists. Even famous beaches in Bali, the Colosseum in Rome, and national parks around the world are facing similar ecological prices for tourism.
How South Asian countries are tackling the waste
Tourists must be educated about the environments and habitats they visit and respect the same. For example, a group called Indiahikes has a Green Trails project where it organises various workshops and programmes for environmental consciousness. The organisation even conducts clean-up drives with locals in the Himalayas and builds simple conservation trappings like rainwater harvesters.
In February, the Chinese government announced that in light of poor trash clean-up, only people with permits will be allowed to trek on Mount Everest. It also vowed to issue only 300 permits each year in an attempt to reduce traffic on the mountain and prevent garbage from piling up.
In 2014, the Nepalese government also introduced rules to keep Mount Everest clean, such as cash incentives to collect waste or mandating tourists to bring back at least eight kg of garbage in addition to their own waste.
Ghimire told the Kathmandu Post, “If only climbers brought back their own waste, it would greatly help keep Everest clean. It’s not about 8-9 kg waste, but bringing back the waste they produce.”
However, law enforcement has not enforced the rules as strictly as is now necessary.
Engaging local communities is another solution—investing in eco-friendly grass-roots movements and green technology that allows local populations to dispose of their waste in a sustainable way is another important step governments must take.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius