How Do You Get 200,000 Pounds of Trash Off Everest? Recruit Yaks.
LUKLA, Nepal — Last weekend, a group of Sherpas gathered outside Buddha Lodge in this speck of a town near Mount Everest, stuffing cloth sacks filled with thousands of pounds of garbage into a turboprop plane.
As the number of trekkers and mountaineers winding through the Everest region has multiplied, so too has the trash — empty bottles of Tuborg beer, food cans, torn tents, empty oxygen bottles. Now, organizers of a national cleanup campaign have set a target of collecting and recycling 200,000 pounds of trash in the area, making it one of Nepal’s most ambitious waste management projects to date.
“Trash has become a major problem,” said Dalamu Sherpa, the chairwoman of a local women’s group, adding that the project was partly about “saving the glory of the Everest region.”
Nepal has taken several steps to reduce garbage in the Khumbu region, which includes Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. In 2014, the country’s tourism ministry declared that anyone climbing the mountain must return from the trip with an extra 18 pounds of garbage.
But rules are loosely enforced in the area, and the authorities have struggled to find a realistic solution to the problem. Every year, thousands of people snake along steep trails to reach South Base Camp, which sits more than 17,000 feet above sea level. The spring climbing season typically lasts from late April to the end of May.
Collecting the trash involves days of walking. Porters and yaks ferry garbage on their backs from a string of villages leading up to base camp, which takes about a week to reach by foot from Lukla.
Umesh Chandra Rai, the chief executive of Yeti Airlines, a local operator, said the plan was to transport 200,000 pounds of garbage to Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, by the end of the year, where it will be recycled. So far, about 24,000 pounds of garbage has been collected. Along the trails, 16 waste dumping sites, 46 trash cans and three toilets have also been installed.
当地运营商雪人航空公司(Yeti Airlines)首席执行官乌麦什·钱德拉·拉伊(Umesh Chandra Rai)说，计划在今年年底前，把20万磅垃圾运往尼泊尔首都加德满都，在那里进行回收利用。到目前为止，已收集了大约2.4万磅垃圾，还在沿途设置了16个垃圾倾倒区、46个垃圾桶和三个厕所。
“Previously, trash dumping areas were made of plastic sheets, so yaks easily destroyed them,” said Nim Dorjee Sherpa, a municipal official. “We have now installed rubbish bins made of stone and zinc sheets.”
“以前，垃圾倾倒区是用塑料布围起来的，牦牛很容易把它们破坏掉，”市政官员尼姆·多吉·夏尔巴(Nim Dorjee Sherpa)说。“我们现在已经安装了用石头和锌板制做的垃圾箱。”
The challenge of hauling material away is so vast that even the bodies of climbers who died on the mountain are sometimes left in place.
“It is very difficult not because of logistical and technical reasons, but because of the law,” said Ang Dorjee Sherpa, the head of the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, which maintains the mountain. “We can’t cremate or bury the dead bodies without consent.”
“这非常困难，不仅是因为物流和技术的原因，也有法律的原因，”负责维护山区环境的Sagarmatha污染控制委员会的负责人昂·多吉·夏尔巴(Ang Dorjee Sherpa)说。“未经同意，我们不能将尸体火化或掩埋起来。”
On a recent cloudless Saturday morning as the temperature hovered around freezing, a dozen volunteers assembled at Tenzing-Hillary Airport, a busy tarmac perched on a cliffside, where sacks of trash were piled high.
As the bags were loaded into the cargo hold of the turboprop, ruddy-faced locals said littering would no longer be tolerated.
“Tourists are not fully abiding by our rules,” said Biruman Rai, the principal of a government school in town. “It is time to enforce the law.”