I have blogged here previously about overcrowding, traffic jams in Everest and the congestion and pollution on the mountain. In August last year the Nepalese government announced that they planned to more actively engage in managing tourism on the mountain to “help expedition teams, coordinate rescues and protect the environment.” This was in response to a high altitude fight between European climbers and Sherpas – Everest is no longer remote. In 2013 810 climbers attempted to scale Everest, 3,700 have stood on the summit and 225 climbers have died on the mountain.
The normal response to overuse of a protected area is to reduce access to conserve habitat and species – Everest is within the Sagarmartha National Park inscribed on the World Heritage site list and described on the UNESCO website as “an exceptional area with dramatic mountains, glaciers and deep valleys, dominated by Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world (8,848 m). Several rare species, such as the snow leopard and the lesser panda, are found in the park. The presence of the Sherpas, with their unique culture, adds further interest to this site.”
So you might expect the authorities to be raise the price of a permit to protect it.
On the contrary the Nepalese government has just announced that it is reducing the cost of a permit from £15,000 to £6,500 – a reduction of more than 50%. This makes no sense when the costs of managing tourism on the mountain has to be met – there is much debris to remove. The numbers of climbers may be small but they have an army of staff and the cumulative pollution is striking.
Cutting the cost of the permits will increase numbers and pollution – it woudl be more rational to set fees at a level which covers the costs of managing the climbers and cleaning up after them.
Alan Arnette publishes detailed costs on Everest expeditions This is yet another example of permits and user fees failing to cover the costs of adequate management and restoration – while the tourism industry takes most of the tourism spend and fails even to meet the costs of cleaning up after itself.
More on the same issue from the BBC:
“members of the Sherpa community say operators should also take the blame.
“Most of these Sherpas are young and uneducated boys who are more often exploited by expedition agencies,” Dawa Sonju Sherpa told me in Namche, the gateway to Everest base camp.
“These agencies make them do more than 70% of the work while they are paid not even 10% of what expedition agencies earn from the clients.”
Sherpa climber Mingma, who narrowly escaped the 18 April avalanche, said workers like him didn’t know how much expedition agencies charged their clients for the services they provided.
“We never have such information but what we are paid in one climbing season is much less and does not support us for even a few months.”
Available figures suggest a Sherpa climber on average earns about $5,000 during a climbing season, of which there are two a year – spring and autumn. That’s much higher than Nepal’s per capita income of about $650.
Against that, some operators can earn up to $80,000 from just one client, of whom there may be dozens a year.
International expedition companies say they pay Sherpas handsomely but many Nepalese firms that recently joined the market cut prices, and as a result some Sherpa climbers’ pay has suffered.
Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, also makes that point.
“You better ask the Expedition Operators’ Association of Nepal to make similar standards as that of international operators – that is the most important thing,” he told the BBC, insisting his own company was already doing that.”
Read more of the BBC website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-27907058