Home Features Government focuses on sustainable mountaineering and Climbers’ Safety: Secretary Adhikari
June 16, 2023

Government focuses on sustainable mountaineering and Climbers’ Safety: Secretary Adhikari

 The Nepalese government has formed an organizing committee to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of the first successful ascent of Mount Everest. The committee is coordinated by the Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation. On this occasion, Mr. Khim Ghale interviewed Mr. Suresh Adhikari, Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and coordinator of the organizing committee.

 Seventy years have passed since the first human stepped on the summit of Mount Everest, the highest peak on earth. As a part of the commemoration, the Platinum Jubilee of Mount Everest is scheduled to be celebrated. What is the purpose of observing the Platinum Jubilee of Mount Everest?

It has been seventy years since the first human set foot on the peak of Mount Everest. This achievement is not only a source of pride for Nepal and Nepalese people, but it is also a remarkable day in human history. Mount Everest is located in Nepal, and it represents the national identity of our country. We are celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of this historic event as a national day and festival. This celebration carries an important message.

The past three years have been challenging, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected the tourism sector more than any other sector. Businesses have faced difficult situations and this has impacted the country’s economy. However, as of mid-2022, we have reached a stage of recovery. We want to convey the message that we are ready to welcome tourists from all over the world, and there are no obstacles for them to visit Nepal. The Everest Platinum Jubilee celebration will help to reinforce this message. We want to demonstrate that tourist services, including our hotels, have resumed at the global level. In collaboration with the government and private sector, we aim to bring tourism professionals in the country together with organizations such as the Nepal Mountaineering Association.

What programs have been scheduled for the Platinum Jubilee of the first ascent of Mount Everest?

On the day of the celebration, we will be hosting a captivating cultural program, which will be followed by a special program. We have cordially invited the Honorable Prime Minister to grace the occasion as the esteemed chief guest, alongside distinguished personalities from the international community. Moreover, we aim to gather a diverse range of stakeholders from the tourism industry, including professionals, industrialists, intellectuals, and media, for an engaging dialogue. During this discourse, we plan to delve into significant topics such as Mount Everest, the broader realm of mountaineering, and its profound impact on Nepal’s tourism sector and economy.

What impact do you think will the Platinum Jubilee of Mount Everest have on Nepal’s tourism, especially mountaineering?

Mountaineering stands as a cornerstone of Nepal’s tourism industry, symbolizing our enduring pride amidst the emergence of new forms of tourism such as sports, wildlife, and cultural experiences. Everest Day, a momentous celebration, holds immense significance for this sector. It serves as a platform for vital discussions among government officials and various stakeholders in the field of mountain climbing, aimed at finding solutions to the challenges faced by tourists and operators. These discussions will outline the roles and responsibilities of the government and the private sector in addressing these issues.

Another pressing matter that demands attention is sustainability. In recent years, we have collaborated closely with the Nepal Army to spearhead the ‘Clean Himal’ campaign. The protection of our majestic mountains is not only pivotal for tourism but also holds profound implications for numerous other sectors. Therefore, one of the primary objectives of Everest Day is not only to promote mountaineering but also to advocate sustainable practices in preserving these natural wonders. By encompassing the entire mountaineering sector beyond the magnificence of Mount Everest itself, Everest Day will play a crucial role in the comprehensive promotion of Nepal’s tourism industry.

How do you envision the future of mountain climbing during the celebration of the Diamond Festival of Mount Everest?

Mount Everest stands as an iconic symbol of challenge and a precious natural resource that requires our utmost protection. Our paramount goal is to ensure that mountaineering practices are safe and environmentally sustainable. This entails taking measures to reduce pollution and embracing safe mountaineering protocols that minimize equipment usage while prioritizing the safety of climbers. Additionally, we must strengthen our capacity for swift search and rescue operations in the event of accidents.

While mountaineering serves as a means of income generation for us, we must tread carefully to ensure that we never compromise the intrinsic value and integrity of our mountains. There exist differing viewpoints regarding the permissibility of activities such as paragliding and skiing on mountains like Everest. Some argue that allowing such activities could result in environmental pollution and diminish the mountains’ allure, whereas others contend that these activities have the potential to enhance the attraction of our mountains for tourists.

Presently, our stance maintains that while other activities may be permitted on smaller mountains, they should not be allowed on lofty peaks such as Everest, Lhotse, Kanchenjunga, Makalu, Manaslu, Dhaulagiri, and Annapurna. However, there is a growing demand to open up new peaks for mountaineering, and the government is positively considering this prospect. The introduction of new peaks for mountaineering endeavors can amplify the allure for climbers, while smaller peaks can serve as ideal training grounds for mountaineers.

How can overcrowding on Mount Everest be managed?

This is a crucial question that needs attention. We need to acknowledge that mountaineering on Mount Everest is a seasonal activity, and overcrowding usually happens during two main seasons. It is important to prioritize the cleaning of the mountain during other seasons. However, we should not encourage more people to climb Mount Everest just for the sake of competition or to reach the summit with the help of equipment. Mountaineering is an adventurous activity, and it should be kept that way. While the work of creating ways to icefall and hanging ropes is necessary, it should not be allowed to carry and drag someone to the peak. This undermines the essence of mountaineering and its spirit. We must ensure that overcrowding does not occur, and we need to consider how many groups and individuals to permit during one season. In addition, we should look at long-term solutions, such as better management of permits, stricter regulation of climbers’ equipment and experience, and the creation of more mountain routes. These measures will not only address overcrowding but also enhance safety and sustainability in mountaineering on Mount Everest.

Is the government aware of the concerns raised about the facilities provided at places like the base camp of Mt. Everest, where some argue that climbing is no longer considered an adventure?

The government is well aware of the issues related to the facilities available at places such as the base camp of Mount Everest. We have communicated with the organizations of expeditions, as well as with members of the Expedition Operators Association of Nepal and other trekking agencies. We have emphasized that climbers should not be provided with unnecessary or luxury facilities and that only basic support should be available to ensure the safety of climbers. Additionally, it is important to consider the environmental impact of the service facilities provided at these locations and to ensure that they do not harm the environment in any way. We are taking steps to address these concerns and ensure that climbing Mount Everest remains an adventurous activity that is safe and sustainable.

In recent years, climate change has had a significant impact on the mountains, and Nepal seems to be bearing the brunt of a mistake it did not make. In this regard, how is the Nepalese government engaging in national and international forums to address the issue?

The primary objective of the government is to preserve the mountains and find ways to mitigate the effects of climate change. The Ministry of Tourism and separate environmental agencies are actively involved in addressing these issues. The issue of “Save Mountains” has been raised in international forums, and planning documents have been updated to include the environmental sustainability of the mountains. However, there are challenges in implementing these policies.

It is not within our control to prevent the snow from melting or the decrease in snow in the mountains due to global warming, which is a global issue. Developed countries have more resources to tackle this problem, but Nepal does not have the same capacity. Therefore, international cooperation is necessary, and the government is taking the initiative to work with other nations to address this issue.

How is the government promoting climbing in other regions besides Everest and its surrounding mountains, which tend to attract a large number of climbers while other peaks remain relatively less popular?

The government has devised a comprehensive plan to not only open up but also promote a multitude of smaller peaks alongside the majestic Mount Everest. By offering an array of enticing options, we aim to captivate climbers’ interests and draw them towards these lesser-explored mountains. Furthermore, we actively encourage climbers to conquer other peaks exceeding 8,000 meters in height. In comparison to Everest, scaling these alternative mountains incurs lower fees. However, Everest’s status as the highest peak naturally allures individuals, irrespective of their prior mountaineering accomplishments. The intrinsic value associated with conquering Everest is unparalleled, making it challenging to mitigate the crowds flocking to its slopes. Nevertheless, the government is diligently striving to entice climbers towards other regions, and this necessitates effective publicity initiatives.

How is the government addressing the lack of interest among the new generation in pursuing careers as mountain climbing guides and the departure of experienced guides from the country?

The government acknowledges the lack of interest among the new generation to pursue careers as mountain climbing guides, and we are equally concerned about the departure of experienced guides from our country. The underlying reasons for this trend include the lack of recognition for their contributions and the prevailing safety concerns in the global context. It is crucial to prioritize their recognition, safety, and social security, particularly considering the risks involved, the occurrence of accidents, and the welfare of their families. While insurance coverage is available, it may not be sufficient, which calls for comprehensive measures to address these pressing issues.

Institutions such as the Nepal Mountaineering Academy are already established to impart training and education to aspiring young mountaineers. However, we recognize the need for additional strategies to attract and inspire young individuals to enter this field. Moreover, diversifying the pool of professionals in this domain by involving individuals from communities beyond the Sherpa community could help alleviate the shortage of human resources.

Crucially, collaborative efforts between the government and the private sector are pivotal to ensuring comprehensive social security measures for travel and trekking agencies.

By working hand in hand, we can establish robust frameworks that safeguard the interests of guides, create a supportive environment, and enhance the overall appeal of this profession.

Finally, as we commemorate the Platinum Jubilee of the first ascent of Mount Everest, what message would you like to convey to the national and international mountaineering community on behalf of the government?

As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the remarkable first ascent of Mount Everest, we honor the indomitable spirit of Sir Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, and all the courageous climbers who have conquered this majestic peak. We also extend our deepest gratitude to those who have introduced Mount Everest and Nepal to the world, allowing the magnificence of Mount Everest to transcend borders. In paying tribute to those who tragically lost their lives on the mountain, we recognize the sacrifices made in pursuit of this awe-inspiring challenge.

On this special occasion, we invite the global mountaineering community to join us in acknowledging the intrinsic value and prestige of Mount Everest. While climbers who have stood atop its summit are dispersed across different nations, we encourage everyone, even if unable to come to Nepal, to celebrate Everest Day in their own unique way. Our heartfelt wishes go out to all the brothers and sisters around the world who have introduced this iconic peak to the world.

As we commemorate this significant milestone, we extend our warmest congratulations and best wishes to both Nepali nationals and foreigners who have made invaluable contributions to the mountaineering sector. Looking ahead, let us unite in our commitment to preserve our cherished mountains and foster sustainable mountaineering practices. Together, we can safeguard these natural wonders for generations to come.

– This interview was first published in Nepal Parbat, the annual publication of the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), on May 29th, 2023.  

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