It has got to be the highest paid clean-up job in
the world, in more ways than one. In a month from now, climbers from Japan,
Nepal and South Korea will be traversing the northern slopes of Mount Everest to
retrieve garbage dumped by previous expeditions. Japan's Ken Noguchi is quoted
as saying the plan is to collect between 2.5 to three tonnes of garbage. He will
be heading the team on the Tibetan side of the world's highest mountain, some
29,028 feet tall though there have been reports of some diminishing of height,
presumably due to geological factors which the layman cannot quite comprehend.
The cleaning is supposed to start between the advanced base camp at 20,997 ft
and the final camps which are pitched at 27,230 ft. Noguchi is not the first to
take note of pollution on Everest which has been described as "the world's
highest garbage site". He is the first to do something about the estimated
100 tonnes of garbage up there, including empty oxygen cylinders, ropes, plastic
bags, canisters, ladders, tents and faecal matter, all left behind by previous
expeditions. The reports do not, however, mention whether Noguchi & Co will,
during the course of their clean-up, also attempt to climb the summit or return
empty-handed with not-so-empty plastic bags.
It is intriguing that the members of this team
are all Asian.
There are no members of
the Caucasian race involved in this unprecedented exercise. In the good old days
when the likes of Bishop Heber carried the white man's burden, the right
reverend prelate even wrote a poem ending with the words "Where every
prospect pleases, but only man is vile".
Hopefully, Everest, or
Chomolungma to give it the native name for Mother Goddess, will one day become
the point to which man can once again raise his eyes in respectful worship
instead of being completely degraded into another stepping stone for unsatisfied
over-achievers who, like the proverbial bear, climb every mountain just to see
another mountain they can climb up. "Because it's there" cannot be an
alibi for abandoning junk on the once pristine slopes of the highest mountain in
In retrospect, it would have been far more in the
fitness of things if the first clean-up expedition had been a truly multilateral
one representing every country whose mountaineers had climbed or sought to climb
Everest. This summer's all-Asian team can only mark the beginning of the highest
cleaning operation in the world.