Everest turning into world’s highest cesspool

May 2nd, 2008 - 1:55 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 2 (IANS) A deadly peril lurks on Mt Everest, the highest summit in the world, which is far more dangerous than the freezing cold, gale winds and recently posted security forces who are empowered to shoot at the sight of political activities. The new hazard comes from human waste scattered along the mountain slopes, which could run into hundreds of tonnes. “Toilet paper and human excreta litter the Everest base camp (at an altitude of 6,400 metres), the slopes, and even the summit (8,848 metres) itself,” says Ang Tshering Sherpa, chief of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, which is entrusted with promoting mountaineering in this country.

“In summer, when the snow melts, the frozen human waste comes into sight and starts raising a stink. The grave health and environmental hazard the untreated excreta pose is a matter of great concern,” Sherpa added.

While conscious mountaineers have been trying to clear the garbage left on the mountains, nothing has been done so far to treat the human waste lying there.

In the past, expeditions have collected used oxygen cans, tents, food tins and other litter and brought much of it down but the human waste remains.

“As it remains frozen during the expeditions, it is very difficult to remove it and bring it down,” Sherpa told IANS.

In a bid to prevent the world’s tallest mountain from turning into the highest cesspool, an expedition is now introducing, for the first time in the history of the Everest, bio-degradable toilets.

Sherpa’s son Dawa Steven Sherpa is leading the 24-member Eco Everest 2008 expedition to the summit in memory of the peak’s greatest benefactor, Edmund Hillary, to try and clean the garbage.

The team is carrying three “Clean Mountain Cans” with them, a portable toilet manufactured by an American company. The bins are lined with bio-degradable bags that decompose the human waste deposited in them.

The expedition is armed with 200 such bags. Besides using them, the team members will also try to remove the frozen waste on the summit, put it in the bags and bring it down to the base camp.

The cans, which can be bought for $75 a piece in the US, cost a thumping $150 when brought to Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world.

“The cans were gifted by the American Alpine Club, while some of the bags were donated by the factories that made them,” Sherpa said.

Sherpa, who runs Asian Trekking, one of the leading trekking agencies in Nepal, said his company would henceforth use the cans and urge other agencies to employ them too.

The expedition, that is also highlighting the dangers of climate change in the Himalayan slopes, is tying to put into action a banner in Kathmandu that urges citizens to use garbage wisely and turn it into money.

It is offering each climber who brings down human or other waste down from the peak to the base camp $1 for each kg of junk.

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