Mountain guides scale Mount Qomolangma in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, May 24, 2019. (Photo by Zhaxi Cering/Xinhua)

Nepali mountaineering association calls for cleaning up Mount Qomolangma amid COVID-19 crisis

With the cancellation of all spring tours in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, Nepali Mountaineering Association (NMA) urged its government to utilize this opportunity to clean the world’s highest mountain — Mount Qomolangma.

NMA President Santa Bir Lama said this period of time “can be used in cleaning up the mountain and resolving the much-talked waste problems.”

“Crisis can be turned into an opportunity,” he told Xinhua on Sunday.

Spring is the major season for expeditions, which sees the flow of hundreds of foreign and Nepali climbers, Sherpa guides, high attitude workers, base camp staffs among others in the 8,848-meter high mountain, with a large amount of garbage produced every year.

In the wake of no human footstep and movement in the mountain this time, mountaineering organizations and climbers believe that this is the perfect time to clean up those garbage and make the mountain clean.

Photo taken on Nov. 9, 2019 shows a foggy view of Namche Bazar, which is known as gateway to Mount Qomolangma, in Solukhumbu district, Nepal. (Xinhua/Shristi Kafle)

Lama further said it’s the right time to conduct cleanup and give message to the whole world that the Himalayas are pristine and garbage free.

Qomolangma is often portrayed as the junkyard at the highest attitude with its slopes covered with oxygen bottles, torn tents and ropes, ladders, can bottles and plastic items and human excrement.

In 2019, at least 10,000 kg of rubbish and four dead bodies were cleared off from the mountain under the initiation of local rural municipality, different stakeholders and Nepal Army.

According to Lama, this cleanup campaign would not just help in clearing off the dead bodies and other solid waste from Qomolangma, known as Sagarmatha in Nepali language, but would also creat job during the crisis.

“Sherpas are dependent upon spring season for income generation. Since they are staying idle at homes without any income, the cleanup campaign would provide them a means for livelihood,” the president said.

Photo taken on March 12, 2008 shows camps and discarded wastes in the Sagarmatha (Mt. Qomolangma) National Park in Nepal. (Xinhua/SPCC)

NMA has already requested the government to consider the proposal of cleanup campaign this spring before May, but hasn’t received any response.

Kami Rita Sherpa, the record-holder climber with 24 ascents of Qomolangma, believes that the cleanup campaign would give a positive message to the environment conservationists and mountaineering fraternity across the world.

“I am ready to take part in the cleanup campaign or even lead if the government agreed. It’s our mountain and cleaning it is our own responsibility,” Sherpa told Xinhua.

Sherpa said the area below Camp IV is cleaner owing to a one-month cleanup campaign. However, there is still a large chunk of garbage in and above the spot as it’s a risky task to conduct cleanliness in the fragile weather.

Tourists go on a climbing route near the base camp of Mt. Qomolangma in Nepal, May 28, 2014. (Photo by Sunil Sharma/Xinhua)

Since spring expeditions are put off, 50-year-old Kami Rita plans to ascend the mountain for the 25th time in autumn season along with other foreign clients.

According to Department of Tourism, the authorized government body that issues climbing permits, none campaign can be launched immediately as the whole country is fighting to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Cleanup campaign is definitely a good initiative, we held several round of discussions too. But since the country can go on lockdown anytime depending upon the scenario, we can just wait and see for now,” Meera Acharya, director at DoT told Xinhua.

Acharya said crisis management is the major focus at the moment.

Qomolangma has not only been an identity of this South Asian nation but also a major source of revenue. According to Nepali regulation, every foreigner needs to pay 11,000 U.S. dollars as royalty while a Nepali climber has to pay NRs 75,000 (around 650 U.S. dollars) to scale the mountain.