Nepal, the home to world’s tallest peak, the 8848 meter high Mount Everest gets a good amount of revenue from mountaineering every year. It has, however, been worried over the second highest number of 11 deaths in May this year during the summit attempt. 22 deaths were recorded in 2015 when a high intensity earthquake jolted the entire Himalayan region, triggering avalanches on 25th April trapping a large number of climbers. More than 800 mountaineers tried to reach the summit this year of which a large number waited for hours in a queue in what is known as “death zone” above 8,000 meters. Everyone wanted to reach the Summit during the predicted short duration suitable weather window. This led to deaths due to exhaustion and high altitude sickness. According to Nepal government, 223 mountaineers reached the Summit in a single day on May 22 this year, breaking the previous record of 204 successful climbers in 2016.
Nepal government is worried over the deadly overcrowding during the mountaineering season every year and has been contemplating stricter guidelines for the safety of increasing number of enthusiasts on the slopes vying to scale the tallest peak. The highest number ever, 381 permits were issued this year, leading to huge rush to Mount Everest.
Based on the report of an expert panel, a set of new rules and regulations has been framed which Nepal government plans to introduce from the 2020 climbing season. It says all climbers must submit a proof of having paid the required fee of 11,000 dollars, must have scaled at least one 6,500 meter high peak in Nepal and a certificate that they possess good health. The Nepal government is also considering mandatory health check up at the Everest Base Camp. All climbers will also require mandatory insurance, which apart from life insurance should cover search, rescue and treatment insurance; in case, any climber is stuck at high altitude. Guides for the expedition also must have at least three years’ experience in leading high altitude climbs.
The existing rules for climbers to Mount Everest stipulate that they must submit a copy of their passport and limited biographical data and a health certificate. The panel has also reportedly suggested that expedition organizing companies must pay a fee of at least 35,000 dollars for the expedition to Mount Everest and 20,000 dollars for other mountain peaks higher than 8,000 meters. Nepal government also intends to restrict the number of permits for climbing Mount Everest to avoid rush at the peak but it has in mind the loss of revenue in doing so.
Since the first successful Summit to Mount Everest in 1953 by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, number of climbers rushing to Mount Everest has been increasing, particularly after 1990s. They have left the slopes of the Everest littered with garbage including human waste, food waste, torn tents, ropes, used oxygen cylinders, ladders, plastic bottles and cans. A Nepal government expedition to Mount Everest has removed 11 tonnes of garbage and four dead bodies this year.
The international community has also been worried over global warming leading to overall climatic change with glaciers melting at a high rate triggering avalanches, landslides and floods in various parts of the world. In a study, scientists have warned that at least one third of the Himalayan glaciers in the region stretching from Afghanistan to Myanmar, including India, Nepal and Bangladesh will melt by the end of the century under present conditions.
India has welcomed Nepal’s move to restrict the number of people trying to reach the Summit of Mount Everest. New Delhi is naturally worried over these developments and has committed itself to check degradation of Himalayan ecology. It has put in place a National Action Plan on Climate Change and the National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, being implemented vigorously. 12 mountain states including Sikkim, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Uttarakhand had carried out ‘Himalayan Cleanup’ programme last year at over 1500 sites.
Script: Rattan Saldi, Political Commentator