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Mount Everest climbers mandated to manage their own waste

Mount Everest climbers mandated to manage own waste such as bringing back their excrement. The initiative aims to curb pollution and ensure environmental sustainability.

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In a groundbreaking move aimed at addressing the escalating pollution crisis on Mount Everest, climbers ascending the world’s tallest peak will now be required to manage their waste, including human excrement, announced authorities.

The initiative comes as a response to mounting concerns over the environmental degradation caused by climbers and the imminent threat to public health.

Mingma Sherpa, chairman of Pasang Lhamu rural municipality, highlighted the urgency of the situation, emphasizing, “Our mountains have begun to stink.”

The municipality, covering a significant portion of the Everest region, has implemented the new regulation as part of broader measures to mitigate environmental damage.

The decision stems from the realization that due to extreme temperatures, excrement left on Everest does not fully degrade, leading to visible human waste on rocks and posing health risks to climbers.

“We are getting complaints that human stools are visible on rocks and some climbers are falling sick. This is not acceptable and erodes our image,” Mingma asserted.

Under the new rule, climbers attempting Mount Everest and nearby Mount Lhotse will be mandated to purchase specialized “poo bags” at base camp, which will be scrutinized upon their return. These bags, sourced from the United States, contain chemicals and powders that solidify human waste, rendering it largely odorless.

During the climbing season, mountaineers spend substantial time acclimatizing at base camp, where separate tents function as toilets with barrels underneath collecting excrement.

However, as climbers ascend, waste management becomes increasingly challenging, with some resorting to open defecation due to insufficient snow cover.

Chhiring Sherpa, Chief Executive Officer of the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC), highlighted the severity of the waste issue, estimating approximately three tonnes of human excrement between Everest’s base camp and camp four.

South Col, a critical base at 7,906 meters, has gained notoriety as an “open toilet,” with human waste littering the windswept terrain.

Acknowledging the necessity of proactive measures, the SPCC is procuring 8,000 poo bags for an estimated 400 foreign climbers and 800 support staff for the upcoming climbing season starting in March.

Each climber is expected to produce around 250 grams of excrement daily, prompting the provision of two bags per climber, designed for multiple uses.

Dambar Parajuli, president of the Expedition Operators Association of Nepal, expressed support for the initiative, proposing its implementation as a pilot project on Everest before extending it to other mountains. Similarly, Mingma Sherpa and Stephan Keck, an international mountain guide, advocated for the adoption of waste management practices, drawing parallels with successful initiatives on other peaks like Mount Denali and in the Antarctic.

Despite previous mountaineering regulations announced by Nepal’s central government, enforcement has been hindered by the absence of liaison officers at base camps, resulting in irregularities and unauthorized climbing activities.

Mingma emphasized the municipality’s commitment to address these shortcomings, promising the establishment of contact offices to ensure the effective implementation of new measures.

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