16 Feb 2020

Everest: Sherpas slam Nepal's plan to remove rubbish

2:24 pm on 16 February 2020

A plan to clear 35,000kg of rubbish from Everest and five other Himalayan peaks has been slammed by some of Nepal's leading mountaineers.

In this photo taken on May 17, 2018, mountaineers and sherpas gather at the summit of Mount Everest after ascending on the south face from Nepal. (Photo by PHUNJO LAMA / AFP)

Experienced Sherpas don't want the army working to remove rubbish from peaks such as Mt Everest. They say the money should be given to them to carry out the work. Photo: AFP

The government says the army will be used for the task, which will cost 860 million Nepali rupees ($NZ11.5 million).

Last year, they managed to clear about 10,000kg of waste from the region.

But Kami Rita Sherpa - who has scaled the world's highest mountain a record 24 times - said they do not have the skills to reach the highest points.

"They collected garbage from lower altitudes," Sherpa told BBC Nepali, adding: "They should mobilise Sherpas to clean up garbage from higher elevations.

"Only Sherpa guides and porters can do that. They should be given proper compensation to clean up the mountains."

Workers from the recycle company Blue Waste 2 Value load the waste garbage's collected from Mount Everest and Base Camp in Kathmandu, Nepal on Wednesday, June 05, 2019.

Workers in Kathmandu load a rubbish truck with some of the waste removed from Mt Everest last year. Photo: AFP

The six peaks - Everest, Lhotse, Pumori, Amadablam, Makalu and Dhaulagiri - attract climbers from around the world each year. The climbers often abandon oxygen and cooking gas cylinders, climbing gear and other rubbish like food wrappers, cans and bottles in their attempts to reach the summits.

But the climbs are not without danger, and numerous people die each year - Everest saw 11 deaths in 2019. Many of the bodies are left on the mountains, so need to be brought down as part of the clean up.

Watch this BBC video of the amount of eleven tonnes of rubbish being cleared off Mt Everest

But it is particularly difficult to bring items down from the higher reaches. In some cases, bodies and rubbish have lain for decades in the snow and ice.

"Climbing Sherpas are the right people to clean up the peaks," Purba Tashi Sherpa, who's scaled Everest 21 times, said. "The government should keep that in mind."

Nepali Army spokesman Bigyan Dev Pandey said he was confident his team would be able to reach the upper areas during this year's clean up, which ends on 5 June.

"We are learning from our mistakes and working hard to clean up the mountains, including the higher elevations."

In this photograph taken on April 25, 2018, Nepali Sherpas prepare for a ritual to pay respects to Mount Everest before beginning their climb at Everest base camp, some 140 km northeast of Kathmandu.

The government should use experienced Sherpas to clean up the country's mountains, Sherpas say. Photo: AFP

Nepal's government has also brought in measures to encourage people not to litter, asking for a $US400 ($NZ620) deposit, which is returned if they bring their waste back down with them.

But it is not easy, the Sherpas acknowledge. Even with their skills, they can struggle.

Ang Tshering Sherpa, the former president of Nepal Mountaineering Association, said: "It's really hard to bring back heavy cylinders or dead bodies from the higher camps.

"Sherpa often risk their lives to do so. Most of the iced bodies weigh as much as 150kg, and that looks impossible for Sherpas to bring down."


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