22 March 2020
Kathmandu: With the cancellation of all spring mountaineering expeditions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) on Sunday urged the country's government to utilize this opportunity to clean Mount Everest.
NMA President Santa Bir Lama said this period of time "can be used in cleaning up the mountain and resolving the much-talked waste problems".
"Crisis can be turned into an opportunity," he told Xinhua news agency.
Spring is the major season for expeditions, which sees the flow of hundreds of foreign and domestic climbers, Sherpa guides, high attitude workers, base camp staff among others in the 8,848-metre high mountain, with a large amount of garbage produced every year.
In the wake of no human footstep and movement in the world's highest peak this time, mountaineering organizations and climbers believe that this was the perfect time to clean up those garbage and make the mountain clean.
Lama further said it was the right time to conduct cleanup and give message to the whole world that the Himalayas are pristine and garbage free.
Everest is often portrayed as the junkyard at the highest attitude with its slopes covered with oxygen bottles, torn tents, ropes, ladders, bottles and plastic items, as well as human excrement.
In 2019, at least 10,000 kg of rubbish and four dead bodies were cleared off from the mountain under the initiation of local rural municipality, different stakeholders and the Nepal Army.
According to Lama, this cleanup campaign would not just help in clearing off dead bodies and other solid waste from Everest, but would also creat job during the crisis.
"Sherpas are dependent upon spring season for income generation. Since they are staying idle at homes without any income, the cleanup campaign would provide them a means for livelihood," the president said.
NMA has already requested the government to consider the proposal of cleanup campaign this spring before May, but hasn't received any response.
Kami Rita Sherpa, the record-holder climber with 24 Everest ascentS, believes that the cleanup campaign would give a positive message to the environment conservationists and mountaineering fraternity across the world.
"I am ready to take part in the cleanup campaign or even lead if the government agreed. It's our mountain and cleaning it is our own responsibility," Sherpa told Xinhua news agency.
Sherpa said the area below Camp IV is cleaner owing to a one-month cleanup campaign.
However, there was still a large chunk of garbage in and above the spot as it's a risky task to conduct cleanliness in the fragile weather.
Since spring expeditions were put off, 50-year-old Kami Rita plans to ascend the mountain for the 25th time in autumn season along with other foreign clients.
According to Department of Tourism, no campaign can be launched immediately as the whole country is fighting to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"Cleanup campaign is definitely a good initiative, we held several round of discussions too. But since the country can go on lockdown anytime depending upon the scenario, we can just wait and see for now," Meera Acharya, the Department's director, told Xinhua.
Mount Everest has not only been an identity of the Himalayan nation but also a major source of revenue.
According to Nepali regulation, every foreigner needs to pay $11,000 as royalty while a local climber has to pay around $650 to scale the mountain.