Nestled in Mount Everest Sagarmāthā National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, Gorak Shep is reached only by a strenuous six-day hike from the trailhead and nearest airport. All supplies, food, and fuel must be carried on yaks or porters. There are no electrical, sanitation and water supply systems and all human waste from Everest Base Camp and surrounding base camps is dumped here, untreated, into open pits.
Mount Everest Biogas Project has received formal approval from the two key Nepali agencies to construct the project: the Sagarmāthā Pollution Control Committee and the Sagarmatha National Park Buffer Zone Management Committee.
Sagarmatha National Park Buffer Zone Management Committee is a Nepali semi-governmental organization local to the Khumbu Valley that organizes local volunteers to keep the trails clear of litter and coordinates with the National Park concerning environmental issues in Sagarmāthā National Park. Sagarmatha National Park Buffer Zone Management Committee is critical for approval to implement the project within the park’s boundaries. Mount Everest Biogas Project has established a formal partnership with the Sagarmatha National Park Buffer Zone Management Committee to facilitate the approval process.
In May 2016, the Mount Everest Biogas Project team met with both agencies. The team received strong support for the advancement of this project. A three-party Memorandum of Understanding agreement (MOU) was signed on May 20, 2016 by these three parties to allow the project to formally proceed. This MOU represents a strong partnership with the local authorities having jurisdiction. Sagarmatha National Park Buffer Zone Management Committee will facilitate all legal approvals required to implement the project in collaboration with Sagarmāthā Pollution Control Committee.
Local participation and good stewardship are essential to the success of the Mount Everest Biogas Project. During a May 2013 site visit, the team garnered the support of and the formal approval of the site location from the Gorak Shep Teahouse Owners Association.
Once operational, Mount Everest Biogas Project will eliminate the annual dumping of 26,000 pounds of solid human waste in the vicinity of Gorak Shep. Additional environmental benefits of this project are: lessened risk of water contamination by fecal coli form, reduced reliance on burning wood or yak dung for heating and resultant health risks, curtailed deforestation of limited wood resources in the area.
The biogas system produces two primary byproducts, both of which will be useful to the local communities. This project will convert waste into methane, a renewable natural gas. This clean fuel will be made available to the local community members in Gorak Shep for cooking and lighting. The pathogen-reduced effluent produced will be available for use by the people in the Khumbu Valley region as fertilizer for crops.
Mount Everest Biogas Project will bring local benefits including job creation during the project construction and operations.
The project team expects to break ground as early as the spring of 2018. There is no system for bringing in heavy equipment for construction so all excavation work will be completed by hand. The project is expected to be fully operational in spring 2019, just in time for the spring expedition season.