Current Affairs

Tons of trash removed from Everest as cleanup unearths bodies

Rob Picheta

porter

Mount Everest is covered in trash.

Decades of climbing on the world’s highest mountain have turned it into a very tall garbage dump, strewn with rubbish, human waste and even bodies.

But a dedicated — and impressively fit — team of volunteers are tackling the problem by carrying out one of the world’s most ambitious clean-ups, and it’s seeing immediate results.

Three metric tons (6,613 pounds) of garbage have been collected from the mountain in just the first two weeks of the scheme, according to AFP. That’s about the weight of two SUVs, or a large male hippo.

The task is being carried out by a 14-member team, which has been set the task of recovering 10 metric tons within 45 days, the agency reported.

Waste recovered on the Everest Cleaning Campaign includes empty cans, bottles, plastic and discarded climbing gear. An army helicopter has assisted in removing the garbage, and the team is set to ascend to higher camps to collect more.

Four bodies have also been located on the 8,848-meter (29,028 feet) mountain, officials said.

“Our team has now reached the Everest Base Camp for the cleaning campaign. All the necessary things including food, water and shelter have already been arranged there,” Dandu Raj Ghimire, director general of Nepal’s Tourism Department, told reporters on Sunday, according to The Himalayan Times.

The Nepalese government and local communities have long been wrestling with the problem of waste on the mountain, as climbers from across the world travel to the country every year to attempt to ascend its summit.

It can also potentially leak into the water supply system, he adds.

To address the issue, Porter began working on a biogas digester that can operate in Everest’s harsh climate.

Once operational, the digester will convert human waste to methane gas, which can be used for cooking or lighting, and effluent that can potentially be used as fertilizer for crops.

But the living microorganisms in the digester need to be kept warm to break the waste down. Porter and his team plan to use solar power to heat the digester.

Researchers from Seattle and Kathmandu University have conducted several tests to see if the technology works. Porter estimates the first digester will cost around $500,000 to construct.

What do you do when nature calls and you’re climbing Everest? Digging a hole in the snow is out of the question, although this does happen at some of the camps, explains former climber and engineer, Garry Porter.

Higher up the mountain where facilities are scarce, climbers are encouraged to deposit their bodily waste in disposable bags and bring it back down with them, explains adventurer Ben Fogle, pictured alongside a makeshift toilet in a tent.

But at base camp, Nepalese authorities have installed portable toilets in the form of blue barrels. According to Fogle, the rule at base camp is to not mix urine with feces. The blue barrels are solely for solid human waste.

But poop does not decompose at altitude in sub-zero temperatures. Instead it dries up and shrivels, releasing harmful gases, explains Porter.

It can also potentially leak into the water supply system, he adds.

To address the issue, Porter began working on a biogas digester that can operate in Everest’s harsh climate.

Once operational, the digester will convert human waste to methane gas, which can be used for cooking or lighting, and effluent that can potentially be used as fertilizer for crops.

But the living microorganisms in the digester need to be kept warm to break the waste down. Porter and his team plan to use solar power to heat the digester.

Researchers from Seattle and Kathmandu University have conducted several tests to see if the technology works. Porter estimates the first digester will cost around $500,000 to construct.

Higher up the mountain where facilities are scarce, climbers are encouraged to deposit their bodily waste in disposable bags and bring it back down with them, explains adventurer Ben Fogle, pictured alongside a makeshift toilet in a tent.

Since 2011, regular efforts have been made to recover several tons of trash from the mountain, and waste management systems have been introduced.

According to the Everest Summiteers Association, the enormous increase in visitors in recent decades has had a severe impact on the mountain’s sensitive environment.

The government also introduced a deposit for climbers in 2014, which is returned if they come back to the mountain’s base with eight kilograms of trash.

In February, China banned non-climbers from its side of the mountain in an effort to reduce waste.

But those in charge of the cleanup have another problem to deal with: climate change, which is melting snow on the mountain quicker and exposing an increasing number of dead bodies.

“Due to the impact of climate change and global warming, snow and glaciers are fast melting and dead bodies are increasingly being exposed and discovered by climbers,” Ang Tshering Sherpa, former president of Nepal Mountaineering Association, told CNN in March.

More than 200 mountaineers have died on the peak since 1922, when the first climbers’ deaths on Everest were recorded. The majority of bodies are believed to have remained buried under glaciers or snow.

CNN has contacted the Everest Summiteers Association for further comment.

From CNN

Published on 3 May 2019

 

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