Nepal, India armies join hands to clean Everest

A joint expedition to the world's highest summit helps preserve its beauty while boosting goodwill between the two nations.

By Kosh Raj Koirala for Khabar South Asia in Kathmandu

June 20, 2013
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In a unique show of co-operation between the two South Asian neighbours, Nepalese and Indian army personnel recently joined in an expedition to clean garbage from trails and base camps on the slopes of Mount Everest.

  • Members of the Joint Nepal-Indo Everest Expedition & Cleanup Campaign  2013 climb Mount Everest's steep and difficult snow trails. The team collected garbage discarded by climbers along routes to the summit. [Photo courtesy of Nepal Army]

    Members of the Joint Nepal-Indo Everest Expedition & Cleanup Campaign 2013 climb Mount Everest's steep and difficult snow trails. The team collected garbage discarded by climbers along routes to the summit. [Photo courtesy of Nepal Army]

  • Bags of garbage collected by the team sit at a base camp along the trail. Over 4,000kg of garbage was collected. [Photo courtesy of Nepal Army]

    Bags of garbage collected by the team sit at a base camp along the trail. Over 4,000kg of garbage was collected. [Photo courtesy of Nepal Army]

The 25-member Joint Nepal-Indo Everest Expedition & Cleanup Campaign 2013 was organised amid concerns that the world's highest peak was losing its pristine beauty due to mountaineers' haphazard disposal of degradable and non-degradable waste.

The effort was organised to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the first human ascent of the 8,848m-meter peak, by Tenzing Norgay of Nepal and Sir Edmund Percival Hillary of New Zealand, on May 29th, 1953. Mount Everest has been scaled by more than 4,300 people since then.

Launched April 9th, the joint army expedition reached the summit on May 19th, according to Nepal Army (NA) officials, and collected 4,010kg of garbage along the way.

"The joint expedition was organised to further enhance the cordial relations between the armies of our two countries," NA spokesman Suresh Sharma told Khabar South Asia. "This was a joint initiative to collect the garbage strewn in the Mount Everest and keep it clean." A total of 2,250kg of bio-degradable waste and 1,760kg of non bio-degradable waste was collected.

NA team leader Major Sunil Singh Rathor told Khabar, "This has become a milestone in mountaineering history as this is the first time both the armies undertook the expedition for a noble cause of cleaning Mount Everest."

The expedition included 13 NA personnel led by Major Rathor, and 12 Indian Army personnel led by Major Ranabir Singh Jamwal. A flag-in ceremony for the expedition was held June 10th at Army Auditorium, Bhadrakali in Kathmandu.

According to Indian Embassy Spokesman in Kathmandu Abhay Kumar, the Indian side engaged 28 mountaineers to assist the expedition by carrying the 4 tonnes of collected garbage.

Plastic and paper items were disposed of at Namche in the foothills of Mount Everest. Other items like debris, oxygen cylinders, metal cans, etc. were brought to Kathmandu for disposal.

The team also set up two incinerators at Namche and Syangboche and placed a total of 40 garbage receptors along the route from Lukla to the 5,350m base camp.

Some analysts see the joint Everest cleanup campaign as another milestone in their relationship.

"The Nepal Army and Indian Army have had a very good relationship since long ago," said security analyst and retired NA Lieutenant General Balananda Sharma. "The way armies of the two countries exchanged their experiences and fought together against the hostility of nature to scale Mount Everest and collect garbage brought them even closer."

"Even as this is a non-military venture, this expedition has opened up new areas of co-operation between the two armies," journalist Chiran Jung Thapa told Khabar. Thapa writes on Nepal security issues for various newspapers, including The Kathmandu Post.

"Nowhere in the world has such a unique military relation as it is between Nepal and India," Thapa said. "Nepal is probably the only country that allows its youths to join the army of a neighboring country." More than 50,000 Gurkhas (Nepalis and India-domiciled Nepalis) are currently serving in the Indian Army.

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