Mt. Everest, also known in Nepali as Sagarmatha serves as the ultimate challenge and lifelong goal for hundreds of climbers every year. It is the world’s highest mountain, but more importantly it is sacred to the local Sherpa communities who refer to the mountain as the Mother Goddess of the World.
Since the successful summit of Mt. Everest by Tenjing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953, a booming industry of climbing tourism has developed in upper Nepal, largely in the Khumbu valley. The growth from a few climbing expeditions in the 1950’s to over 900 climbers in 2012 was unexpected and is having a tremendous environmental impact to the pristine and fragile environment of the Sagarmath National Park.
The financial gain to Nepal, brought by hundreds of international tourists each year, has had positive consequences. However, the presence of climbers and trekkers, on the mountain and throughout the entire approach up the Khumbu valley, has left a trail of discarded food and wrappers, empty oxygen bottles, camping gear, as well as human waste.
The human waste (feces) being dumped in the vicinity of Gorak Shep has grown to 12,000 kg (12 tons) annually causing environmental degradation and risk to human health to the men, women and children of Gorak Shep and is degrading to a mountain many in Nepal feel is sacred. Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, (SPCC) has the responsibility for the removal of human waste from the Everest Base Camp, unfortunately due to the rugged and remote nature of this area, disposal into unlined pits has been the only practical response to the massive human waste. The Sherpa community has no solution nor does the climbing community that creates it. We believe that the environmental damages and risks to human health currently being caused by the current waste management process on Mt. Everest are unacceptable.
The base camps for Everest and the other peaks in Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal are the expeditions’ summit climb beginning. These base camps host the climbers for weeks as they prepare physically and mentally for the challenge ahead. These camps have also, over the years, been scarred by human impact. With so many people in such a limited space, the challenge of limiting pollution due to human waste has persisted.
Since 1991 Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC), a Non-Government Organization made up of the local people of the Khumbu valley has led the effort to clean up the national park, from Everest Base Camp (EBC) down through the Khumbu valley. Their work has been very successful, though mostly focusing on garbage removal. Human waste is however carried down from base camps and dumped into open pits at lower elevation, specifically at a small teahouse village at the base of Mt. Everest of Gorak Shep, Nepal.