Cleaning Up Mount Everest

EcoHimal promotes the sustainable economic and social development of the countries located in the Himalayan regions, as well as to preserve the environment and protect natural resources as a basis for sustainable development.

Mount Everest, the tallest summit in the world, has inspired and attracted people from all over the world ever since the first attempts to scale the mountain in the 1920s. Nepal is one of the world’s poorest countries and tourism is a major source of revenue, especially for struggling mountain communities. The enormous increase in visitors to the Everest region has resulted in severe and negative effects on its sensitive environment. There is currently no functioning waste management system in place and little local knowledge or experience of handling such large amounts of rubbish in an environmentally sustainable way. The overall objectives of the project are to conserve and manage the rich biodiversity of Nepal’s Everest National Park, with emphasis on solid waste management and on supporting and strengthening local communities as caretakers of biodiversity conservation. The project has been initiated by the local population and includes:

  • Clean up expeditions on Mount Everest to remove approximately 8 tonnes of rubbish from the mountain
  • Installing local rubbish and recycling facilities along the trekking route from the airstrip at Lukla to Everest Base Camp
  • Installing a new set of regulations and code of conduct for all future trekking and climbing activities in the area, training local people, and guaranteeing the sustainability of the systems
  • Conducting information and awareness raising activities on biodiversity conservation, modern waste management and climate change to at least 70% of local people

The Update

Dramatic progress was made by this project by October 2011. 8.1 tonnes of rubbish off the climbing routes of Mount Everest and trekking routes in the project region. The waste was sorted, transported and recycled where possible by 100 porters from disadvantaged groups and a team of 29 Sherpa mountaineers were trained in collection, sorting and treatment of solid waste.

New national policies on waste management and code of conduct for National Parks in Nepal were approved by the responsible steering committee and submitted to the cabinet for approval. This process provides an important and solid basis for the project and ensures the legal framework.

In another positive move, plastic bags have been banned from the project region from May 2011.

A study on awareness, knowledge and behaviour regarding waste and waste management in the National Park and Bufferzone was conducted as part of the project. The results were shared and discussed with target groups, partners and stakeholders in order to develop a sustainable concept. Proper documents were developed for awareness raising activities on waste management in the region. A radio campaign raising awareness of the local population has also been carried out.

Lodge-owners, shop keepers and farmers have been trained in waste prevention and awareness on waste management has been raised in the region and country wide and new strategies have been produced by local people to minimise waste in the region though increased use of local products.