Since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s famous ascent of Mt. Everest in 1953, the mountain has seen a flood of climbers looking to follow in their icy tracks. While the influx of foreigners has led to revenue for Nepal, it has also polluted the mountain with trash, caused major traffic jams at the summit, and sparked interpersonal conflicts at basecamps. To ease pressure on the peak, Nepalese officials have offered a proposal to lease out the 326 mountains already open to climbers to private tourist companies. They hope that both international and domestic businesses will be able to better promote the region and attract new adventurers – but at what cost?

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In 2013, over 500 climbers made the trek to the top of Everest. Behind them, they left over 4.4 tons of frozen trash, and caused queues that forced mountaineers to wait days before reaching the summit. Although officials have reduced the access fees to other mountains and required each Everest expedition member to carry back 8kg of garbage in addition to their own, they are still looking for ways to make the rest of the Himalayas more appealing.

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“We have begun discussion on leasing unclimbed peaks to the private sector, to promote these mountains as new tourism products,” Mohan Krishna Sapkota, a spokesman for the tourism ministry said.

If passed by the cabinet, the proposal would allow both foreign and Nepalese tourist companies to lease the mountains for a fee. The Nepal Mountaineering Association sees the move as “a very good step”, and believes that opening up other ares of the range will be good for the economy of the country as a whole.

However, not everyone agrees with the notion to privatize the Himalayas.”Mountains are there to be climbed by anyone,” Tashi Tenzing, the grandson of Tenzing Norgay told the Guardian . “It won’t make any difference to the number of people who want to climb Everest.” And if Mount Everest already has a trash problem, won’t opening up additional peaks just compound the environmental destruction of the entire region?

By allowing the fate of each mountain to be held in the hands of a few for-profit companies, it is possible that monopolies or corruption could eclipse the benefits both the government and climbing community would like to see. In attempt to both care for and profit from their natural heritage, the Nepali people must navigate the treacherous slopes of commerce, resource management, and international politics.

Via The Guardian

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Images via Wikicommons user Induhari and Flickr user Steve Evans