China closes its Mount Everest base camp to tourists
Decision to limit number of visitors due to mounting waste problem at site
China has closed its side of the base camp of Mount Everest to visitors who don’t have a climbing permit.
Authorities “have resorted to the unusual move to deal with the mounting waste problem at the site”, reports the BBC.
The ban means tourists “can only go as far as a monastery slightly below the 5,200m (17,060ft) base camp level”, the broadcaster adds.
In January, authorities announced that they would limit the number of climbing permits each year to 300.
Climbers will also be required to meet stricter rules to protect the environment, an official from the Chinese Mountaineering Association (CMA) told the South China Morning Post.
Calling for further action to protect Mount Everest, the official added that workers had collected 8.4 tonnes of rubbish from the base camp last year.
And “in the regions below that level, 335 tonnes of waste had been collected”, says Singapore news website Today Online.
The Chinese Mountaineering Association said 40,000 visited its base camp in 2015, the most recent year with figures.
The Nepalese side of the mountain faces similar pressure. Visitor numbers there rose from just 3,500 in 1973 to a record 45,000 in 2016-17, according to Nepal’s Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation.
China “has set up stations to sort, recycle and break down the rubbish”, says The Independent. On the Nepalese side, organisers “have started sending large waste bags with climbers during the spring climbing season to collect trash that can be winched back to base camp by helicopters”, adds the paper.
Currently the waste is dropped into pits on Gorak Shep, a frozen lake bed near a village 17,000 feet above sea level.
The Independent reported last year that human waste is also becoming a problem on Everest – “in the roughly two months that it takes to reach the summit, the average climber will have produced nearly 60 pounds of excrement”, the newspaper said.
On Chinese social media, claims had been spread in recent days that its base camp would be permanently closed to tourists - but Chinese newspaper Xinhua said officials had denied that.