Nepal to send team to clean Mount Everest

A Sherpa bags litter on Mount Everest at 8,000 meters. (AFP)
Updated 11 April 2019

Nepal to send team to clean Mount Everest

  • Decades of commercial mountaineering have turned the mountain into the world’s highest rubbish dump
  • Fluorescent tents, discarded climbing equipment and empty gas canisters pollute the well-trodden route to the summit

KATMANDU: Nepal will send a dedicated team to Mount Everest this climbing season to collect garbage and retrieve bodies littering the world’s highest peak, officials said Thursday.
Decades of commercial mountaineering have turned the mountain into the world’s highest rubbish dump as an increasing number of big-spending climbers pay little attention to the ugly footprint they leave behind.
Fluorescent tents, discarded climbing equipment, empty gas canisters and even human excrement pollute the well-trodden route to the summit of the 8,848-meter (29,029-foot) peak.
“We take pride in Mount Everest but we are often accused of not being able to clean it... We have now come together to clean the mountain,” said Dandu Raj Ghimire, chief of Nepal’s tourism department.
The government has joined hands with mountaineering associations, the army and local organizations to coordinate the clean-up effort.
A 14-member team will be sent to Everest base camp from April 25 and aim to bring back 10,000 kilogrammes (11 tons) of trash.
Eight members will then ascend to Camp 2 at 6,400 meters and teams of three will take turns to go up to Camp 4 at 7,950 meters, where they will spend 15 days litter-picking on the snowy slopes.
Climbers and high altitude workers will be given incentives to bring back the bundled trash down to the base camp and the recyclables will be airlifted to the capital.
“This is the first time the government has taken initiative to clean the mountain... but it can’t be done in just one year. We have to continue this,” said Santa Bir Sherpa of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.
Six years ago, Nepal implemented a $4,000 rubbish deposit per team that would be refunded if each climber brought down at least eight kilogrammes (18 pounds) of waste, but only half of the climbers return with their trash.
In February, China banned non-climbers from accessing its Everest base camp in Tibet in an attempt to clean up its side of the mountain.
Over 4,000 people have climbed Everest so far, and last year saw a record 807 climbers reach the summit.
Melting glaciers caused by global warming are exposing bodies and trash that have accumulated on the mountain since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made the first successful summit 66 years ago.
Environmentalists are also concerned that the pollution on Everest is also affecting water sources down in the valley.


No cheating: Frenchwoman was world’s oldest person, researchers say

Updated 16 September 2019

No cheating: Frenchwoman was world’s oldest person, researchers say

  • Calment “remains the oldest human whose age is well-documented”

PARIS: Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who died two decades ago aged 122, should retain the title of the oldest person on record, French researchers said Monday, rejecting claims of fraud.
Ageing specialists Jean-Marie Robine and Michel Allard, who declared Calment the longest-lived person in the 1990s, said their review of old and new data confirmed she “remains the oldest human whose age is well-documented.”
“Recently the claim that families Calment and Billot (her in-laws) organized a conspiracy concerning tax fraud based on identity fraud between mother and daughter gained international media attention,” Robine, Allard and two other researchers wrote in The Journals of Gerontology.
“Here, we reference the original components of the validation as well as additional documentation to address various claims of the conspiracy theory and provide evidence for why these claims are based on inaccurate facts,” they wrote.
Calment, who used to joke that God must have forgotten her, died in southern France in 1997, setting a longevity record that has been questioned.
Last December, Russian researchers Valery Novoselov and Nikolay Zak claimed in a report that Calment had actually died in 1934 and that her daughter Yvonne stole her identity to avoid paying inheritance tax.
According to their research, the woman who died in 1997 was Yvonne, not her mother, and at a young 99.
The Russian report was based on biographies, interviews and photos of Jeanne Calment, witness testimony, and public records of the city of Arles where she lived.
The new article insists Calment’s identity “has not been usurped,” according to a statement from the French research institute INSERM, where Robine works as research director.
The authors cross-checked the original data used to validate the centenarian’s identity with newly uncovered documents, to show “there was neither tax fraud nor falsification of Jeanne Calment’s identity” the article says.
The team also turned to mathematical modelling to counter arguments that her considerable age was impossible.
In every 10 million centenarians, one can reach the age of 123, they said, “a probability that is certainly small, but that is far from making Ms Calment a statistical impossibility.”
“All the documents uncovered contradict the Russian thesis,” Robine told AFP, as the team demanded a retraction from Zak and Novoselov.
Novoselov, however, insisted Monday that the original work verifying Calment’s identity and age “is full of flaws and mistakes,” while Zak said he found the new article “weak.”
Born on February 21, Calment became the biggest attraction of the southern French city of Arles since Vincent Van Gogh, who spent a year there in 1888.
She said she had met the artist when he came to her uncle’s store to buy paints, and remembered him as “ugly as sin” and having an “awful character.”
Calment used to talk of enjoying chocolate and port and would smoke an occasional cigarette before her health deteriorated.
INSERM said however that it could not “support any requests for exhumation” of Calment’s body, on which no autopsy was performed after her death.