In a significant move to address the environmental challenges on Mount Everest, climbers will now be required to bring back their waste to base camp. This initiative aims to tackle the alarming issue of visible human waste on Everest, which has raised concerns among the climbing community and environmentalists alike.
Mingma Sherpa, chairman of Pasang Lhamu rural municipality, announced the decision in response to Everest’s critical levels of faecal waste accumulation. The presence of human waste on Everest not only poses serious health risks to climbers but also threatens the fragile mountain ecosystem, as reported by Mail Online.
For decades, climbers on Everest have employed makeshift methods for waste disposal, such as digging holes or relieving themselves in the open. However, the extremely cold temperatures, which can drop to as low as -60°C (-76°F), prevent the natural decomposition of waste, leading to an unsightly and hazardous build-up on the mountain.
The Pasang Lhamu municipality has introduced regulations requiring climbers to use poo bags to combat this issue. These specially designed bags are equipped with chemicals that solidify and deodorize the waste, making transporting it easier and more sanitary. According to the Mail Online report, each bag can be reused multiple times, lightening the load for climbers during their challenging ascent.
This measure aligns with practices in other extreme environments, such as Mount Denali and the Antarctic, where poo-bags have proven effective in managing human waste. Despite these efforts, the waste problem on Everest extends beyond human excrement, with decades of commercial mountaineering leaving the mountain littered with trash and posing additional environmental and safety concerns.
To mitigate this, Nepal introduced a $4,000 rubbish deposit per team in 2013, refundable if teams successfully remove at least eight kilograms (18 pounds) of waste per climber. Similarly, climbers on the Tibet side of Everest are fined if they fail to comply with waste removal regulations.
However, keeping Everest clean remains daunting, with only a small percentage of climbers adhering to these waste removal mandates. In 2017, the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC) reported that climbers in Nepal collected nearly 25 tonnes of trash and 15 tonnes of human waste, highlighting the pressing need for more effective waste management solutions.
As Everest grapples with the impacts of environmental degradation and increasing numbers of tourists, implementing strict waste removal policies is crucial to preserving the mountain’s natural beauty and ecological health.