Waste Management

  • Human Waste is Polluting Mount Everest

Human Waste is Polluting Mount Everest

Apr 11 2015 Read 3398 Times

Officials of Nepal’s Mountaineering Association are warning that climbers leaving human waste on Mount Everest are causing real health issues. The problem is deemed to be so serious that it could even lead to the spread of diseases.

The History of climbers on Mount Everest

Since Mount Everest was conquered by Sir Edmund Hillary and his guide Tenzing Norgay in 1953, around 4,000 climbers have matched this incredible feat according to the Associated Press. However, hundreds more have attempted the climb. Each climbing season lasts around two months on Everest with around 700 climbers and guides taking to the slopes annually.

Types of rubbish left behind on Mount Everest

In their wake, climbers have left a trail of rubbish, which includes broken climbing equipment, depleted oxygen canisters, empty food packets and human waste. There have even been dead bodies abandoned on the slopes. Grinnell College estimates that each climbing season there is currently ‘26,500 pounds of human excrement’ of which ‘most of it bagged and carried by native Sherpas to earthen pits near Gorak Shep, a frozen lake bed and village at 16,942 feet.’

Where is the problem most prevalent?

The problem of leaving toxic waste starts once climbers have left base camp. The base camp employs more facilities and includes cleaners, cooks and staff that supervise toilet blocks and catering areas. Here any waste is properly disposed of. After climbers have left base camp, to get acclimatised they proceed onto the next four camps. It is here that facilities are severely reduced. There are tents but no toilets. Ang Tshering, the chief of Nepal's Mountaineering Association, said: “Climbers usually dig holes in the snow for their toilet use and leave the human waste there.”

What is being done about the human waste on Mount Everest?

Unfortunately there does not seem to be a clear strategy for cleaning up the waste on the slopes. It appears to be left to individual entrepreneurs, such as Dawa Steven Sherpa, who started the Eco Everest Expedition, to address the problem.

Dawa has started several initiatives, including introducing toilet bags for climbers and a cash-for-trash system, where climbers are paid to bring rubbish off the mountains. So far around 13,000 kilograms of rubbish has been collected off the slopes. The government's head of the Mountaineering Department, Puspa Raj Katuwal, said that at present the Nepalese Government had no plans to tackle human waste left by climbers.The government has however, introduced new rules that require every climber has to bring down 8 kilograms of rubbish back to base camp. This is the amount the government estimates climbers will discard along the slopes. Any team failing to adhere to the new regulations will face penalties of $4,000.

Nepal air pollution

In 2012, the annual Environmental Performance Index revealed that India has overtaken China as having the worst air pollution in the world. China dropped to 125th place out of the 132 countries surveyed, leaving India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal and at the back as having the worse air effects on human health. For more information on this topic, read: India Revealed to Have 'Worst Air Pollution in the World'

Image Source: Rongbuck, Tibet

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