Sustainable travel, responsible tourism, ethical travel and eco-tourism – these are some of the terms coined in the recent past as a response to the clamor to protect the environment from massive deterioration due to tourism. As one of the largest industry in the planet, tourism and travel has the potential to either destroy or preserve the various destinations around the world.
Natalie Paris’ Mount Everest ‘of Excrement’ posted in Telegraph Travel – News Section is an eye-opener; everything’s not well in the highest peak of the planet. Despite the world’s effort to promote responsible/ethical travel, certain travelers just don’t get it. They continue to shamelessly exploit and irresponsibly hurt the environment not fully understanding that the very same thing that attracted them there is what they are wantonly destroying.
“Mount Everest was first conquered six decades ago but the human waste left by those following in Sir Edmund Hillary’s footsteps is beginning to raise a stink,” says Paris.
The Nepalese Sherpa complains about the tons of garbage that climbers leave behind to pollute Everest. Being an iconic mountain that is every mountaineer’s dream to scale, hundreds come and try it every year.
Sherpa said that human excrement is now a bigger problem than the oxygen bottles, torn tents, broken ladders, and cans or wrappers also left behind on Everest.
“Discarded in ice pits, the human waste remains under the snow,” he told reporters. “When washed down by glaciers (when the snow melts), it comes out in the open.”
He added that the waste also poses a health hazard to people dependent on water from rivers fed by the region’s melting glaciers.
Climbers say they are often forced to squat in the open or hide behind rocks to relieve themselves.
“Hygiene standards can be very low,” said Michelle Jana Chan, a Telegraph Travel writer and Himalayas expert. “Climbers are exhausted at the end of the day.
The situation calls for some drastic measures to keep the Everest’s pristine condition. Several Himalayan camps are not seriously pursuing hygiene as they should. Rules of dirty camps are more likely to be violated in such a case. Long queues in hygiene facilities tend to discourage users so they may just squat anywhere since the camp is dirty anyway.
With stricter rules and higher penalties, climbers are expected to pay more attention about the cleaning and littering rules. In fact, they are now being required to carry their own litter back to their base.
A rule introduced last year required a deposit of $4,000 to be forfeited by any expedition from which a climber fails to bring back 8kg of rubbish and human waste.
Enforcement of this rule is not as easy. Thus, everyone – climbers as well as guides along with the authorities – are enjoined to help. It must be everyone’s obligation to keep Everest clean.
Today, there are local efforts to make Everest as pristine as possible, such as the clean-up expeditions held each year; this is called Annual Eco Everest. Despite the remoteness and harshness of the conditions, some 15,000 kg of trash have been retrieved since it began in 2008. Dawa Steven Sherpa said that even when climbers bring disposable travel toilet bags when heading to the higher camps, there are stubborn and irresponsible climbers who don’t.
Aside from their trash, unrecovered bodies of those who died trying to reach the summit continue to rise and contributing to the decomposing waste along the slopes of Everest.
In 2012, Nepali artists turned 1.5 metric tons of rubbish taken from Everest’s slopes into works of art as part of an awareness campaign to keep the summit clean.
Do you think this artwork can drive home the message? Well it is better than not exerting effort at all.
When a responsible climber steps and unearth wastes left by those ahead of him, one can’t help but wonder what happened to, “Take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints; kill nothing but time!” (-“Nothing But” by John Kay)