Is Everest Base Camp being shifted?
AangDorje Sherpa who used to go to the Everest trek before 1992 used to see big glaciers during those days. Things have changed today as the glaciers continue to melt and become smaller in size. Reminiscing the hard work required during those days to plough the ice, Mr. Sherpa said that it took several hours to remove the ice. While there used to be 7 base camps those days, it has reduced to 4 base camps today. He further added that there used to be snow in the Himalayas and surrounding area throughout the year but these days rising temperature has resulted in rapid glacier melting. “Due to increase in average temperature globally, we have been badly affected although we have not done anything wrong”, said Mr. Sherpa.
Owing to growing problems of pollution, temperature rise and solid waste management, the debate on shifting the base camp has ensued in the Himalayan region. In our question of why there is a need to rethink about the location of the base camp, Kaji Sherpa, Managing Director of Pyramid International Laboratory and Observatory Centre said that as more than 1500 people gets crammed in the base camp region during a single season, the problem of environmental pollution has been increasing in the base camp areas. Also, the trending of melting snow has become widespread in the base camp and kalaapathar region. On an average, more than one metre of snow is melting in a year. Stating that there has been huge change in the base camp area before 10 years and now, Mr. Bista stressed that the base camp region has now fallen down. While the temperature of this region was recorded -27 degrees 35 years ago, it has now come down to -23 degree. “We can only see Kalaapathar in this region these days”, he added.
According to him, there used to be 30 to 80 centrimetres (cm) of snow but this year it was only 33 cm. In this scenario, it is likely that it will be difficult to find not only snow but also the mountains in this region in days ahead. Hence, it will be imperative to find new place for basecamp.
Echoing this voice, Dr. Rijan Bhakta Kayastha, a glaciologist and professor at Kathmandu University remarked that as the possibility of only seeing black stones in the Himalayas looms large, it is a wise idea to think differently about the new avenue for base camp. “ Since basecamp is above snow, establishing tents and meeting at the current base camp results in human induced pollution. This also contributes to rapid snow melting as snow at zero degree easily gets melted and the location where the tent is also turns into a big hole. Controlling human activities will help to some extent to lessen the pace of snow melting”, elaborated Dr. Kayastha.
However, there are stiff challenges ahead in translating this into action. Kama Rita Sherpa, who has a strong reputation of record climbing of the Mount Everest thinks that it is really difficult to trace the alternative and safe location for shifting base camp and other adjoining camps at the moment. “ If we relocated Camp 1, then we have to shift camp 2,3 and 4 as well. On the one hand, it is risky to shift Camp 1 from security reason, there is also the issue of finding adequate water by shifting camps to other areas”, he further clarified. He also thinks that such a decision will be detrimental from tourism point of view as well.
Clarifying the government’s position on this issue, Surya Prasad Updahyay, Director General of Nepal Tourism Board said that no official decision has been made from the government whether or not to shift the base camp although wider debate and discussion is ongoing. He, however, said that the board is positive to take necessary steps to conduct in-depth study over this issue to figure out a long lasting solutions.