Reporter’s trash

Three journalists took down EEE garbage from Everest Base Camp while on a reporting trip to the area. Bibek Bhandari tells EEE about the experience.

Dairy Milk chocolate wrappers and empty Bikaner Bhujiya packets: Those were some of the items I carried down from the Everest Base Camp. But mind it, it wasn’t my litter but of those who have probably set out to conquer the world’s highest summit. Instead of glory, they should be ashamed to have dumped their garbage on their way towards it.

But there have been organizations and individuals like the Extreme Everest Expedition and the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee based in Namche Bazaar that are committed to clean the mess that others, who pay thousands of dollars to climb Everest, have created. And joining hands to clean the garbage from the Everest region are people of all professions, including us.

At base camp, the sight of tons of waste recovered from above 8,000 meters was not pretty. Empty oxygen cylinders, burners and plastic: Yikes, I thought to myself. But at the same time I thought it would be a good initiative to carry some of the garbage with me. And I encouraged some of my friends to do something good, be a part of the cause.

But it wasn’t only us—a team of five journalists (only three carried the garbage) who were there to cover the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon 2010—ready to carry a small packet of garbage and ferry it to Namche. Some of the participants of the marathon were also involved in the cause and they sounded excited to be a part of the marathon and Everest clean-up campaign.

And I was excited too.

So I asked for a garbage packet that was tucked in a zip-lock bag. And when I received a weightless (literally) packet with some condiment wrappers, I asked to one of the representatives of the campaign: “Is this it?”

“Oh if this isn’t enough, you can have this one,” he said passing a bigger packet. But since I already had a heavier backpack, I opted for the smaller one and put it inside my backpack. It actually made no difference weight-wise and I was happy to be a part of a good cause.

Maybe I was too happy, or tired, or the weight of the garbage made no difference, that I completely forgot to submit the garbage packet in Namche. And so I carried it to all the way Lukla. But since we reached Lukla late in the evening and had to board an early morning flight, it was difficult to drop the garbage at the designated place. But we had to do what we were supposed to do. So we handed over the garbage along with our names (me and my friend’s) to a security personnel we were told to contact. Anyways, mission accomplished. I’d say over-accomplished since we had the garbage with us for an extra two days.

We may have done our part, but everyone must do theirs and act accordingly. When I talked to one of the German participants, she said it would be better that people who climb Everest not litter so that people like us do not have to worry about cleaning. As I talked to one of the hotel owners, she said it was high time for people to clean the capital rather than Everest and learn something from the locals of Solukhumbu. And she seemed right. In Lukla, I came across members of the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, returning after their mission of cleaning the area, which they do on frequent intervals during and after the trekking season ends.

And I asked to myself: How often do we do this in Kathmandu?

The cleaning campaign in Everest is certainly an eye-opener for what is happening in the region. The empty Snickers and Mars wrappers scattered along the trekking trails are still found in abundance. As trekkers, people should be aware of the ecological and environmental consequences that they’re leaving behind. Beyond the trekking trails, mountaineers should realize the potential hazards they’re creating by dumping their trash; and at the national level, we should be aware of this and learn from it.

Bibek Bhandari is a correspondent for Republica.

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