A team of the Nepal Army will soon collect 35 tonnes of waste from four mountains of Nepal including the highest peak of the world, Mount Everest.
The army is launching the Sapha Himal Abhiyaan (the Clean Mountain Campaign) given the decreasing level of snow in the Himalayas and the increasing effects of climate change.
According to the Nepal Army spokesperson Narayan Silwal, the campaign will be conducted from April 5 till June 5 this year on Lhotse, Kanchenjunga, Manaslu and Everest.
“In the first phase, starting from November 6, 2021, to February 27, 2022, we were making preparations and coordinating the works,” he says, adding, “In the second phase, we will conduct acclimatisation training from February 28 to March 29. The cleanup will start in the third phase.”
A 29-member team including doctors from the Nepal Army will be deployed for garbage collection whereas 48 Sherpas will also join the team. The total number of cleanup crew will be 91 people including 14 in the coordination.
The programme this year is a continuation of the ongoing Sapha Himal Abhiyaan that was previously conducted in 2019 and 2021. “In the first year, 10 tonnes of garbage was collected from the Himalayan region whereas 27.6 tonnes of garbage was collected in 2021,” informs the Nepal Army spokesperson.
Kishor Adhikari, a Nepal Army official involved in the mission, says there are two types of waste on the mountains: decomposable and non-decomposable items dumped in those areas. “Empty oxygen cylinders, plastic bottles, cans, batteries, food items, torn tent remnants and other items are non-decomposable waste whereas the leftover foods and papers are decomposable waste.”
In Nepal, there are eight peaks above 8,000 metres and 1,310 peaks above 6,000 meters. The Nepal Army estimates that 50,000 climbers and about 80,000 supporters visit the peaks each year.
The army aims to collect 35 tonnes of waste including 14 tonnes from Everest alone, 10 from Kanchenjunga, six from Lhotse and five from Manaslu. Of them, 22 tonnes will be collected around the base camps whereas 13 tonnes will be collected from the areas above the base camps.
“Once the base camps are set up, we will fix ropes too. And with the help of the fixed ropes and the Sherpas, we will collect the rubbish as estimated from base camps and peaks above in joint efforts,” the official says.
The collected waste will be first transported to the base camps and it will be managed and verified in the presence of the concerned bodies. The decomposable waste will be stored and transported separately by local authorities and non-decomposable waste will be airlifted to Kathmandu and handed over to waste management companies.
Lack of budget
According to Nepal Army officials, it is estimated that the campaign will cost Rs. 129.67 million.
“But, the government has allocated only Rs 83 million with discussions underway to further provide Rs 46.67 million.”
The remaining amount will be collected from other government offices of all three tiers, Nepal Mountaineering Association, Nepal Tourism Board, Himalayan Rescue Association, Trekking Agency Association and others, Adhikari adds.
He further informs that the amount allocated by the government this year is 17 per cent less than that of last year. “We will use monetary support from various government, non-government and private organisations/companies in a transparent and effective manner.”
According to Nepal Army’s estimation, around Rs 13 million will be spent on air travel, medical and communication services during the campaign. Further, Rs. 96.6 million will be spent on the purchase of personal clothing and accessories for the climbers.
It has also been estimated that Rs 108.62 million will be spent on the handling agencies. In addition, Rs 694.2 million is estimated to be spent on the allowance along with Rs. 445.7 million on miscellaneous expenses.
Silwal informs that the Nepal Army has already received permission to climb the peaks for the cleaning campaign. “We have completed the selection of the team leader and other climbers for the campaign.”
Currently, it is in process of calling for bids for the mountaineering materials and handling agency required for the campaign.