Abandoned tents, human waste piling up on Mount Everest

Abandoned tents, human waste piling up on Mount Everest
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This May 21, 2019, photo provided by climber Dawa Steven Sherpa shows Camp Four, the highest camp on Mount Everest littered with abandoned tents. (Dawa Steven Sherpa/Asian Trekking via AP)
Abandoned tents, human waste piling up on Mount Everest
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In this May 27, 2019 photo, sacks of garbage collected from Mount Everest are seen in Namche Bajar, Solukhumbu district, Nepal. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)
Abandoned tents, human waste piling up on Mount Everest
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In this May 27, 2019 photo, Nepalese Sherpa community women eat their lunch during a function to announce Mount Everest cleanup campaign in Namche Bajar, Solukhumbu district, Nepal. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)
Updated 24 June 2019

Abandoned tents, human waste piling up on Mount Everest

Abandoned tents, human waste piling up on Mount Everest
  • Sherpa estimated 30 tents had been left on South Col, and as much as 5,000 kilograms (11,000 pounds) of trash
  • Budget expedition companies charge as little as $30,000 per climber, cutting costs including waste removal

KATMANDU, Nepal: After every party it’s time to clean up and Mount Everest is no different. The record number of climbers crowding the world’s highest mountain this season has left a government cleanup crew grappling with how to clear away everything from abandoned tents to human waste that threatens drinking water.
Budget expedition companies charge as little as $30,000 per climber, cutting costs including waste removal. Everest has so much garbage — depleted oxygen cylinders, food packaging, rope — that climbers use the trash as a kind of signpost. But this year’s haul from an estimated 700 climbers, guides and porters on the mountain has been a shock to the ethnic Sherpas who worked on the government’s cleanup drive this spring.
Moreover, the tents are littering South Col, or Camp 4, which, at 8,000 meters (26,240 feet) is the highest campsite on Everest, just below the summit. The high winds at that elevation have scattered the tents and trash everywhere.
“The altitude, oxygen levels, dangerously icy and slippery slopes, and bad weather of South Col make it very difficult to bring such big things as tents down,” said Dawa Steven Sherpa, who led an independent cleanup last month and has been a leading figure in the campaign to clean Mount Everest for the past 12 years.
Exhausted climbers struggling to breathe and battling nausea leave heavy tents behind rather than attempt to carry them down. Sherpa said the logos on the ice-embedded tents that identify the expedition companies were deliberately ripped out so the culprits could evade detection.
“It took us an hour to dig out just one tent out of the frozen ice and bring it down,” said Sherpa. His expeditions have alone brought down some 20,000 kilograms (44,000 pounds) of garbage since 2008.
Sherpa estimated 30 tents had been left on South Col, and as much as 5,000 kilograms (11,000 pounds) of trash. Bringing it down is a herculean task when any misstep at such altitudes could be fatal.
It is impossible to know exactly how much litter is spread across Everest because it only becomes visible when the snow melts. At Camp 2, two levels higher than Base Camp, the campaigners believe that around 8,000 kilograms (17,637 pounds) of human excrement were left during this year’s climbing season alone.
Some climbers do not use makeshift toilets, instead digging a hole in the snow, letting the waste fall into small crevasses. However, rising temperatures have thinned the glacier, leaving fewer and smaller crevasses. The overflowing waste then spills downhill toward Base Camp and even communities below the mountain.
People living at the Base Camp use melted snow for drinking water that climbers’ toilets threaten to contaminate.
“During our expedition to Camp 2, eight of our 10 Sherpas got stomach illness from bad water at Camp 2,” said John All, a professor of environmental science at Western Washington University who visited Everest on a research expedition.
For the Nepalese who regard the mountain as “Sagarmatha,” or Mother of the World, littering amounts to desecration. Climber Nima Doma, who returned recently from a successful ascent, gets angry thinking that the sacred mountain is being turned into a garbage dump.
“Everest is our god and it was very sad to see our god so dirty. How can people just toss their trash on such a sacred place?” she said.
The trash is creating danger for future climbers and spurring calls for action now.
“When the snow melts the garbage surfaces. And when there is high wind, tents are blown and torn and the contents are scattered all over the mountain, which makes it even more dangerous for climbers already navigating a slippery, steep slope in snow and high winds,” said Ang Tshering, former president of Nepal Mountaineering Association.
Ang Dorjee, who heads the independent Everest Pollution Control Committee, has demanded that the Nepal government — whose general oversight of Everest has come under scrutiny this year as climbers died waiting in line to ascend — institute some rules.
“The problem is there are no regulations on how to dispose of the human waste. Some climbers use biodegradable bags that have enzymes which decompose human waste but most of them don’t,” he said.
The bags are expensive and have to be imported from the United States.
“The biggest problem and concern now on Everest is human waste. Hundreds of people are there for weeks who go to open toilets,” Tshering said. Melting conditions at Camp 2 create a odor that is sickening to climbers, and the waste will eventually contaminate water sources below and become a health hazard, he said.
Tshering and other mountaineers say the government should mandate the use of biodegradable bags. It would spare Dorjee and his team the unpleasant task of collecting the waste and carrying it down the dangerous slopes.
The government is working on a plan to scan and tag climbers’ equipment and gear. All climbers would have to deposit $4,000 before their ascent and might not get the money back if they return without their items.


Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle

Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle
Updated 16 January 2021

Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle

Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle

KABUL: When Hanan Habibzai became a refugee in 2008, he left Afghanistan with a sense of responsibility toward all those left behind, especially widows and orphaned children.
As he made the UK his new home and managed to establish himself, Habibzai founded Helping Orphans in 2016, a charity that gives vocational training and literacy courses to women and children.
Helping Orphans estimates that there are as many as 3.5 million widows and 2.6 million orphans in Afghanistan today. Often uneducated, the women face few options if their husbands die, while children end up working out of necessity and never receive an education.
“What will happen to these children when they grow up? Their parents are taken away and they are left alone in poverty and hardship, and they have never been in school,” Habibzai told Arab News.
“What can we expect from these children when they grow and take control of their communities except problems? So, I established this charity to help vulnerable children and orphans join school. These are the exact reasons as to why I established Helping Orphans.”
As his family was displaced by the Afghan-Soviet war of the 1980s, Habibzai knows from his own experience what hunger and poverty mean. The situation in the country has become even worse now, he said, after the US-led invasion to oust the Taliban in 2001.
Before he left Afghanistan, Habibzai worked as a journalist, traveling across the country’s provinces, witnessing hopelessness and despair.
“Within the Afghan poverty-stricken and war-torn nation, I see displaced families, a refugee going through many difficulties, a 10-year-old orphan becoming responsible for feeding his family, or a woman who has lost her husband and now has to look after her children while she has nothing,” he said.

FASTFACT

Helping Orphans estimates that there are as many as 3.5 million widows and 2.6 million orphans in Afghanistan today. Often uneducated, the women face few options if their husbands die, while children end up working out of necessity and never receive an education.

“Today I live in the UK. I have everything here. My family and I have three full meals a day. But back in Afghanistan, there are many people who do not even have a single meal a day and are facing severe poverty and hardship.”
The latest survey by the UN indicates that 18 million people in Afghanistan — half of the country’s population — are in need of emergency aid.
In the beginning, through donations from individuals, Helping Orphans provided direct relief in the form of food and cash, but in June last year Habibzai realized that more sustainable efforts were needed.
In Kabul, the charity now enrolls children in school while their mothers take part in three-month courses to become tailors, allowing them to be self-reliant. About 20 women have completed the first training courses. One of them is Shamila, who lost her husband, a commando soldier, and was left alone with a young son about two years ago.
“The world had come to an end for me with the death of his father when my child wept,” she told Arab News.
“I joined the workshop of the charity, learned tailoring and it has been a big change both mentally and financially,” she added. “I am a tailor at home now. I earn money this way and have been able to stand on my feet.”
The charity is now planning to open more courses and teach other professions, like hairdressing, to help women provide for themselves.
“We want the aid to have a long-term impact on the lives of people, so beneficiaries can learn a profession,” said Helping Orphans Director Abdul Fatah Tayeb.
“We want them to learn how to fish rather than giving them a fish. The fundamental goal is to make people self-sufficient.”