Leaving two very disastrous years behind, stage is being set for the upcoming climbing season in and around the Everest Base Camp. A crowd of over thousand including that of climbers, Sherpa guides, track makers, ice ladder fixers and porters have reached the frozen station in preparations for attempting the highest peak in the world. Though the real climbing time is more than a month away, Namche, the gateway to the Everest, is abuzz and active with seasonal tourism activities. The place is connected with Kathmandu and the world by satellite based modern communication technologies.
Everest is one of major tourist puller of the nation but much needs to be done to protect its environment and sanctity. Mountain tourism in general and Everest climbing in particular needs to be managed in better way to prevent over crowding and environmental degradation. Strict rules and regulations need to be put in place to ensure that the globe’s highest point does not turn into the highest junk yard. Everest slopes are littered with water bottles, oxygen cylinders, food wrappers, ropes, nails and other broken gears. If plenty of lavatories are not built, human excreta will also pollute the highest source of pure Himalayan water.
The Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee says that defecating in open has been prohibited in the Everest region from this year but desired results can be achieved only when monitoring, evaluation and punitive measures are effectively implemented. Old habits die hard; so stringent regulatory measures are needed to change habits and adopt the environmentally friendly ways. Every climber, hiker, guide and porter must be required not to throw trash on the trail. They should collet their own litter and dispose them in the fixed sites. Expedition teams should be asked to bring back their oxygen cylinders and metal parts from broken equipment back to their station.
Everest region, notorious for harsh climatic condition and weather events is fraught with danger of natural disasters. Inclement weather events like blizzards, high wind and resultant icefall and avalanches claims lives time and again. In one of the major Everest disasters, 16 high altitude Sherpa guides were killed in avalanche in May 2013. The tragedy that occurred while ascending to Camp 1 from the Base Camp forced expedition teams to abandon their climb that year. The worst was not over. Eighteen climbers and their helpers died in the Base Camp due to the devastating earthquake of 25 April 2015. This also forced dozens of teams to cancel their expedition.
Sound management, careful planning, good safety measures, prompt rescue readiness and effective regulatory mechanism are needed to make Everest tourism free from risks. Environmentally friendly approach needs to be applied to save its sanctity and purity. Air rescue bases, hospitals and health camps, security posts and government monitoring offices need to be established along the Everest route. Many hikers lose their life due to high altitude sickness along the way. They should be provided with health advice, medical supplies and rescue. Mountain rescue is a costly thing but rescue helicopters should be stationed in the region during the climbing season that can rescue people in one way flight to Kathmandu.