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Nepal Climbers Retreive 4 Bodies, 11 Tonnes of Decades-Old Garbage from Mount Everest

A clean-up team of 20 sherpa climbers collected five tons of litter in April and May from different camps sites above the base camp and another six tons from the areas below

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Workers from a recycling company load garbage collected and brought from Mount Everest, in Kathmandu, Nepal, June 5, 2019. VOA

Nepali climbers have retrieved four bodies and collected some 11 tons of decades-old garbage from Mount Everest and its approach below the base camp as part of a drive to clean up the world’s highest mountain, the government said on Wednesday.

Climbers returning from the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) mountain say its slopes are littered with human excrement, used oxygen bottles, torn tents, ropes, broken ladders, cans and plastic wrappers left behind by climbers, an embarrassment for a country that earns valuable revenue from Everest expeditions.

The garbage, along with the bodies of some of the 300 people who have died over the years on Everest’s slopes, are buried under the snow during winter, but become visible when the snow melts in summer.

mount everest
FILE – Mountaineers walk near Camp One of Mount Everest, April 29, 2018, as they prepare to ascend on the south face from Nepal. VOA

A clean-up team of 20 sherpa climbers collected five tons of litter in April and May from different camps sites above the base camp and another six tons from the areas below, said Dandu Raj Ghimire, director general of the Department of Tourism.

“Unfortunately, some garbage collected in bags at the South Col could not be brought down due to bad weather,” Ghimire said in a statement on Wednesday.

Everest was first conquered by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953 and about 5,000 people have since reached the summit. South Col, on the Southeast Ridge route pioneered by Hillary and Tenzing, is located at some 8,016 meters (26,300 feet), and it is the site of the final camp from where climbers begin their summit attempts.

Mount Everest
Mountaineering in Nepal has become a lucrative business . Pixabay

Cleaning campaign coordinator Nim Dorjee Sherpa, head of the village where Mount Everest is located, told Reuters two bodies were collected from the treacherous Khumbu Icefall and two from camp three site at the Western Cwm. “They were exposed from the snow when the sherpas picked up and brought them down,” he said.

None of the four bodies have been identified and it was not known when they died. Nine mountaineers died on the Nepali side of Everest in May while two perished on the Tibetan side, making it the deadliest climbing season since 2015.

ALSO READ: Nepali Sherpa Breaks Own Record, Climbs Everest Twice in Week

Climbers returning from Everest have talked of crowding and delays on the Nepali side just below the summit in the “death zone”, so-called because at that altitude the lack of oxygen can be fatal. However climbers and guides have blamed a host of factors for the deaths.

Ghimire, of the Department of Tourism, said the deaths were not because of congestion but due to bad weather and short summit windows. Nepal this year issued 381 permits to climb the Everest, costing $11,000 each, an important source of income for the cash-strapped nation. (VOA)

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NASA Satellite Reveals More Plants are Growing Around Everest

According to the researchers, snow falls and melts here seasonally, and they don't know what impact changing subnival vegetation will have on this aspect of the water cycle - which is vital because this region (known as 'Asia's water towers') feeds the ten largest rivers in Asia

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Mount Everest
FILE - Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, is seen in this aerial view March 25, 2008. VOA

Researchers have found that plant life is growing and expanding around Mount Everest and across the Himalayan region as the area continues to experience the consequences of global warming.

According to the study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, the research team from University of Exeter in UK, used satellite data to measure the extent of subnival vegetation – plants growing between the treeline and snowline – in this vast area.

Little is known about these remote, hard-to-reach ecosystems, made up of short-stature plants (predominantly grasses and shrubs) and seasonal snow, but the study revealed they cover between five and 15 times the area of permanent glaciers and snow.

Using data from 1993 to 2018 from NASA’s Landsat satellites, researchers measured small but significant increases in subnival vegetation cover across four height brackets from 4,150-6,000 metres above sea level.

“These large-scale studies using decades of satellite data are computationally intensive because the file sizes are huge. We can now do this relatively easily on the cloud by using Google Earth Engine, a new and powerful tool freely available to anyone, anywhere,” said study researcher Dominic Fawcett, who coded the image processing.

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region extends across all or part of eight countries, from Afghanistan in the west to Myanmar in the east. More than 1.4 billion people depend on water from catchments emanating here.

According to the study, results varied at different heights and locations, with the strongest trend in increased vegetation cover in the bracket 5,000-5,500m.

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Around Mount Everest, the team found a significant increase in vegetation in all four height brackets. Conditions at the top of this height range have generally been considered to be close to the limit of where plants can grow.

Though the study doesn’t examine the causes of the change, the findings are consistent with modelling that shows a decline in “temperature-limited areas” (where temperatures are too low for plants to grow) across the Himalayan region due to global warming.

Other research has suggested Himalayan ecosystems are highly vulnerable to climate-induced vegetation shifts.

“A lot of research has been done on ice melting in the Himalayan region, including a study that showed how the rate of ice loss doubled between 2000 and 2016,” said researcher Karen Anderson.

“It’s important to monitor and understand ice loss in major mountain systems, but subnival ecosystems cover a much larger area than permanent snow and ice and we know very little about them and how they moderate water supply,” Anderson added.

According to the researchers, snow falls and melts here seasonally, and they don’t know what impact changing subnival vegetation will have on this aspect of the water cycle – which is vital because this region (known as ‘Asia’s water towers’) feeds the ten largest rivers in Asia.

Researcher Anderson said “some really detailed fieldwork” and further validation of these findings is now required to understand how plants in this high-altitude zone interact with soil and snow. (IANS)