Nepal Wants to Rid Mt. Everest of Dead Bodies and 10,000 Kilograms of Trash

It's a major cleanup effort for a mountain notoriously called "the world's highest garbage dump."

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29 April 2019, 11:39am

Trash collected at Everest base camp in Nepal, May 3 2011. Picture by Laurence Tan/Reuters

Nowhere is safe from man-made garbage. At 8,848 meters tall, Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak has become the world’s highest garbage dump.

Year after year, hundreds of people make their way to climb Mount Everest. More than a century of these trips has left behind tonnes of both biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste, including empty oxygen canisters, food waste, and bags filled with faeces. And Nepal has had enough.

Solukhumbu, a district in Eastern Nepal is leading "one of Nepal's most ambitious cleanup projects for Everest." The Everest Cleaning Campaign aims to collect and remove a total of 10 tonnes of garbage from the mountain.

According to Danduraj Ghimire, the director general of the Department of Tourism, around 5,000 kilograms of waste will be taken from Everest Base Camp, 2,000 kilograms from South Col, and a combined 3,000 kilograms from Camp I and Camp II.

"Our goal is to extract as much waste as possible from Everest so as to restore glory to the mountain. Everest is not just the crown of the world, but our pride," Ghimire told The Kathmandu Post.

In February, the Chinese government closed off its side of the Everest Base Camp, located in Tibet, to everyone except those carrying permits to scale the mountain. The decision was taken in response to the huge amount of trash that had been piling up at the site.

While the Chinese side remains closed off until further notice, access from Nepal's side to Everest is still open to climbers who carry a permit. the paths are more treacherous with its higher death total and death rate.

Last June, China launched its own clean-up operations that consisted of 30 people, which managed to recover 8.5 tonnes of waste. But now the Chinese government has taken drastic measures deemed necessary to tackle the issue. This passage is reportedly easier to access, as visitors can drive up to camp via an asphalt road.

The ease of the passage from Tibet could be a reason why the garbage problem is now out of hand. To counter this, now only 300 permits will be issued every year.

Aside from removing garbage from the site, the Everest Cleaning Campaign will also focus on recovering bodies of ill-fated climbers that have buried under the snow for years. The snow and ice covering Mount Everest in the last thousands of years are rapidly melting due to climate change, exposing the remains of deceased climbers.

According to a new report from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, ICIMOD, if global warming continues, two-thirds of Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2100.

Around 290 people have died climbing Mount Everest, according to the Himayalan Database, which records expeditions as far back as 1905. A third of those who died were Sherpa climbers. The Sherpas are an ethnic group from the mountainous regions of Nepal who serve as mountain guides paid to carry equipment during the climb or prepare the route for foreign climbers.

The Everest Cleaning campaign is a 45-day operation. It began on April 14, on the Nepali New Year, and will conclude on May 29.

This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.