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Mount Everest climbers told to carry poo-bags, bring waste back to base camp

The decision comes amidst growing concerns that the accumulation of fecal waste on Everest has reached critical levels, posing serious risks to both climbers and the fragile ecosystem of the mountain.

Screenshot 2024 02 10 021357In an effort to tackle the mounting environmental challenges plaguing Mount Everest, climbers embarking on the iconic journey will now be mandated to bring back their own waste to base camp, a move aimed at mitigating the pollution and health hazards posed by human excrement on the world’s highest peak.

The decision, announced by Mingma Sherpa, chairman of Pasang Lhamu rural municipality, comes amidst growing concerns that the accumulation of fecal waste on Everest has reached critical levels, posing serious risks to both climbers and the fragile ecosystem of the mountain, Mail Online reported.

For years, climbers scaling Mount Everest have resorted to makeshift solutions for waste disposal, such as digging holes or relieving themselves in the open. However, the extreme cold temperatures, plummeting as low as -60°C (-76°F), have hindered the natural degradation of excrement, resulting in visible human waste accumulating on the rocks.

To address this pressing issue, Pasang Lhamu has implemented regulations mandating climbers to carry poo-bags, specially designed to facilitate sanitary collection and transportation of waste. These bags, equipped with chemicals that solidify and deodorise the waste, aim to minimise both the environmental impact and discomfort associated with waste disposal during expeditions, the Mail Online report said.

According to Mingma Sherpa, each bag can be reused up to five or six times, significantly reducing the burden on climbers during their ascent. This initiative mirrors similar practices adopted on other challenging terrains, such as Mount Denali and the Antarctic, where poo-bags have been instrumental in waste management efforts.

However, human waste is just one aspect of the broader environmental crisis challenging Mount Everest. Decades of commercial mountaineering have transformed the iconic peak into a rubbish dump, with litter strewn across its slopes posing significant threats to both the environment and climbers’ safety.

In response, Nepal implemented a $4,000 rubbish deposit per team in 2013, refundable upon successful removal of at least eight kilograms (18 pounds) of waste per climber. Similarly, climbers on the Tibet side face fines for failing to adhere to waste removal regulations.

Despite these measures, the scale of the problem remains daunting, with only a fraction of climbers complying with waste removal requirements each year. The Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC) reported that in 2017 alone, climbers in Nepal brought down nearly 25 tonnes of trash and 15 tonnes of human waste, indicating the urgent need for more effective waste management strategies.

As Mount Everest confronts the dual challenge of environmental degradation and over-tourism, implementation of measures like mandatory waste removal represents a critical step towards preserving the pristine beauty and ecological integrity of the world’s highest peak.

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