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Editorial: Limit Everest expeditions

Editorial: Limit Everest expeditions

The Department of Tourism has begun issuing climbing permits for the spring season. As of Thursday, permits have been granted to 86 climbers from over 18 countries to climb Mt Everest—the tallest peak on earth. Preliminary figures indicate that the department will issue a record number of permits this year as well.

Concerns have been growing over the past decade that overcrowding in the Everest region is exacerbating pollution at the highest point on earth. Although the department has introduced various measures to control pollution, implementation has not been effective at the local level. As a result, pollution continues to escalate in the Everest region due to increased human activities, especially during the climbing season.

It is high time the government introduced strict measures to control pollution in the high Himalayan areas. It should consider limiting the number of expeditions to mountains, especially Mt Everest. Although there have been deliberations on this agenda, the government has not been able to reach a concrete decision. While such a measure may result in revenue loss, it is crucial for the preservation of Mt Everest. Starting this season, the local government has introduced new regulations requiring people climbing Everest to bring down their biological waste to the base camp for disposal. While this is a welcome move, it alone is not sufficient. Not only is the peak, but even the base camp is becoming polluted and crowded.

Although good laws and regulations are in place, the problem lies in enforcement. Government agencies, mainly the Department of Tourism, are failing to implement the laws, and there is a noticeable lack of coordination between the department and local government. During the climbing season, very few government staff reach the base camp for monitoring, and even if they do, they are not effectively performing their duties. In the absence of effective implementation of laws, visitors are violating the rules. The Himalayas are turning into black mountains due to global warming. The increased level of pollution is compounding the woes for the mountain community. Commercial expeditions are damaging the local environment in the name of providing all services to climbers. This must be controlled immediately.

Along with the effective implementation of laws, clean-up expeditions should be organized on a regular basis. The Nepal Army has joined hands with some private enterprises to clean up high Himalayan peaks. But this alone is not sufficient. The ongoing commercialization of Mt Everest should be halted to preserve this global landmark for future generations. The government must be ready to take decisive action, even if such moves are unpopular, to protect the world’s highest peak.