Everest Closure 2009 ? But Why?

Aug 8: Everest Closure 2009 ? But Why? by Jack Geldard – Editor – UKC The Tibetan Environmental ProtectionBureau has announced plans for closure of the northern side of MountEverest in an effort to clean up the rubbish abandoned on themountain.Zhang Yongze, Tibet´s environmentalprotection chief gives the following reasons: “We have a responsibility toensure the water source of the river flowing from Everest to the seais clean, our target is to keep even more people from abusing MountEverest.”The western world however, remainsunconvinced.This environmental turn-around comes just after thebuilding of a 65 mile tarmac road to Everest base-camp.The road wasbuilt to ease the access of the Olympic torch relay, that recentlysummited Everest.The Chinese government says it also hopes it willease access for climbers and tourists to the mountain. “The highway will become themajor route for tourists and mountaineers who are crowding onto MountQomolangma in ever larger numbers,” it said, referring to themountain by its local name. The decision to build the road camedespite open criticism on environmental grounds.The Free TibetCampaign have other ideas about the significance of the road,maintaining it has nothing to do with improving accessibility fortourists, but is a means of asserting control over the region. At the time of the road´s construction a Free Tibet Campaignspokesman said: “The permanent metalled road on Mount Qomolangmais an attempt to underscore Beijing´s tenuous claims to sovereigntyover Tibet.To achieve this aim China will sadly scar irreparablyone of the world´s most beautiful landscapes as well as tarnishing amountain sacred not only to Tibetans but to many people living in theHimalayan region.” The building of the road and thegovernment statement suggesting that the road will be?the majorroute for tourists and mountaineers? flies in the face of therecent closure plans for 2009.However, given the recent fury fromthe Chinese over the foreign coverage of the riots in Tibet, and the poor reception of the Olympic torchrelay in Europe, it isn´t difficult to imagine why a severe reductionof entry visas is now on the cards for foreign visitors and press in2009. A source from a major UK expeditionorganisation gives his take on the situation: ?The Chinese say they´re welcomingclimbers this autumn (for example, to the popular 8000m peak, ChoOyu), but state you can have no more than two nationalities on apermit. You can´t therefore have mixed nationality teams + NepaleseSherpas.They´re saying they may not grant individuals visasanyway, and are talking about a week-long visa process inKathmandu.A lot of the commercial expedition organisersare now climbing Manaslu in Nepal (the world´s 8th highestmountain) instead of Cho Oyu, because they´re tired of being messedabout by the Chinese.The Chinese seem to be doingeverything to keep people out of Tibet, without actually banningentry. Sources inside Tibet are talking about a big crackdown onTibetans after the games.This recent press release about aclean up operation on the North side of Everest is clearlypropaganda. There have been a number of clean up expeditions on theNepalese side of the Everest.Why would you need to close themountain? It´s obviously a whitewash, but sadly some naive mediasources in the outdoor world seem to have fallen for it.? What is telling is that no outsideorganisations such as international mountaineering associations orenvironmental groups have been informed or consulted on the clean-up. There have been multiple clean-up operations organised on both sidesof the mountain in the past, although China have never officiallybeen involved.Tonnes of waste have been removed from the mountainby volunteers, who had no need to close the mountain ? in fact itneeded to be open for them to arrange permits.Closing the mountainwill only reduce the amount of experienced volunteer helpers on handto assist in the clean-up. It istrue that waste is amajor issue in the area and of particular concern is the fact that inthe freezing temperatures human excrement never breaks down.It iseasy to imagine how this could lead to widespread contamination ofriver water from melting glaciers.China would do well to publicise anyactual plans for the ´clean-up´ to the international climbingcommunity and liaise with the various volunteer groups who haveexperience in this field.More stringent policy regarding wastemanagement for climbers is an essential step forward, but a completeshut down of Tibet, at a time of a huge increase in Chinesenationalism, is pulling the wool over no one´s eyes.