The mountains are echoing “help!”

The peak of heaven, as the Mount Everest is popularly called, is now slowly losing its glory due to the increased pollution around the mountain ranges. The frozen dessert perching atop a 29,028 ft ladder of death is a source of conquest and challenge for all mountaineers. However now, it is being called a fecal time bomb. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay might have completed their journey, but Mt Everest is slowly decomposing in its own filth! Mt Everest is getting destroyed due to our mismanagement. This loneliest place on the earth is not only crammed with mountaineers but also with huge piles of decaying waste. Shouldn’t we do something to save the Goddess Mother of the World?

Over the years, more than 4,000 climbers have tried to take up the task of scaling the Everest. Along the journey, people have left behind their oxygen canisters, broken climbing equipment, all kinds of trash, excretory waste and even dead bodies in their wake. So, just like a pile of dirty laundry, the wastes have accumulated on this once pristine land. “The two standard routes, the Northeast Ridge and the Southeast Ridge, are not only dangerously crowded but also disgustingly polluted. The garbage is leaking out of the glaciers and pyramids of human excrement are befouling the high camps,” said mountaineer Mark Jenkins in a 2013 National Geographic article on Everest. It is 2018 now and the situation has only become worse. Several clean-up efforts for retrieving tons of garbage from the mountain and forcing expeditions to take back their trash have been made. Still, empty oxygen bottles and other lost or abandoned gears remain scattered on the peak.

Situated amidst the Himalayan ranges, the natural beauty of Mt Everest is unrivaled. But over the decades of mountaineering, the paradisiacal land is being converted into a garbage dump! Ang Tshering, the President of Nepal Mountaineering Association, warned that the pollution is reaching critical levels. The human waste accumulation on the land is only increasing and threatens to spread diseases on the world’s highest peak. Sources say that at the base camp, there are drums in the toilets which are emptied out when they are full. Further on, the climbers dig out holes in the snow for their toilet use and leave the waste there. Soon after, a fresh layer of snow covers those holes and the human waste remains there- unattended and unseen. Well, now you can only imagine the amount of waste that will come under your feet when you climb the Everest. This kind of waste accumulation is common to the whole lot of mountain ranges. It seems like wherever we go, we leave a trace of ourselves in the form of piles of waste trailing behind us.

So, how much waste are we talking about? As much as “26,500 pounds of human excrement” each season, according to Grinnell College. The people are fighting to clean up the mounting piles of trash, down below. This pollution slowly slides back to the lower parts of the mountain once the frost cover starts melting. Do you know what happens after that? A stream of waste flows down and pollutes the rivers and watersheds. This, in turn, affects the livelihood of the people who live in these areas. Their main source of water is filthy and so is their land. Everest is now polluted and overcrowded due to the increasing amount of climbers every year. The climbers come for personal achievement and pollute the land in the process.  Many have lost their lives due to this apathetic self-indulgence. Are we becoming as cold as the mountains?

We all just love the thrill of those high and mighty hills, don’t we? So, we go trekking and mountaineering on these ranges. And of course, we should be least concerned about the cost these regions have to pay for our enjoyment. The heap of beer cans, mineral water bottles, and other materials can easily be seen in the villages in and around the Himalayan ranges. These garbage dumps at the foothills of the Himalayas represent the kind of waste that is choking up the beauty of the mountains. The dump is not on the regular trekking trails. The regular trails are admirably clean, aside from the stray Fanta and instant noodle wrappers. “Most trekkers have no idea of their impact on the remote Everest landscape, said Alton Byers. In the end, the ones who are affected are the local crowd who thrive in the industry of tourism. They do not have a choice but to go with the flow, of the waste, literally. The mountainous regions survive on the revenue derived from the tourism industry. Without this, they will have no income or livelihood. Hence, they have to bear with the people who are destroying their land.

“Thirty years ago, there was no garbage. There was no plastic,” but now, “we see this in every village all the way up to Everest base camp”, said Aaron Byers. There is no sustainable development in these regions and no waste management. Trekking companies are supposed to carry their rubbish out with them, but most do not. So now, the pollution and the filth is just increasing. It is high time we have some waste management plans! The amount of plastic and other bio-degradable waste in the Himalayas is growing at an alarming rate and wreaking havoc on this fragile ecosystem. Trekkers and tourists have become litterbugs. They don’t think before tossing a juice can or wafer wrapper by the mountainside, said a report in The Times of India. Since the biodegradable wastes absorb heat, it will perpetuate the melting of the ice cover on the Himalayan ranges. So if we don’t take precautionary steps, we will soon have a huge water bomb on our land. There isn’t much time now, the clock is ticking.

Escaping into the world of cold and high mountains will surely give us a sense of thrill and excitement. But at what cost? Our actions are laying waste on the beautiful Himalayan ranges. Trekking imposes a huge pressure on the natural resources of the land. Bigger the group size, higher is the pressure on the natural resources. The Himalayas are home to lots of species of medicinal plants and flowers. Due to the increase in pollution, the existence of these resources is threatened! The whole landscape and the economy of the Himalayan region are at risk due to the accumulating waste content. Dawa Steven Sherpa, who leads Everest cleanup expeditions said that the result of this is “a health hazard and the issue needs to be addressed”. Do you still think that plastic wrapper you left on the mountain slope will not affect the high and mighty mountains? Well, it’s time you think again.

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