Who in the mountaineering world has not dreamed of climbing Everest? Almost all climbing enthusiasts have done it. And this aspiration materialized between 1953 and 2016 by nearly 4,500 people who not only generated wealth for this corner of Nepal. In its wake, they also left up to 12 tons of excreta per year which endangers the environment and the local population of Gorak Shep. To meet these challenges comes the Mount Everest Biogas Project, which has designed a unique solar system that will turn faeces into methane and fertilizer for farmland.
Therefore, what is a growing threat will become active for the population which now lives under the risk that the water it consumes is contaminated with human excreta. And, although the Nepalese authorities have been working for years to dispose of and treat the waste generated in the area, where the Everest base camp is located, they have not yet been able to provide a solution to the treatment. feces.
Visitor to visitor since, in 1953, Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Edmund Hillary completed their ascent to the highest mountain on the planet, the gravity of the situation has worsened. “After decades of continuous exploitation, the base camp and the inhabitants of the higher areas are being injured by the human impact”, deplore the promoters of Mount Everest Biogas Project. The non-profit initiative launched in 2010 with the support of Engineers Without Borders and Architects Without Borders, has set itself the objective of putting an end to the environmental degradation that threatens the area and the growing risk of contamination of ‘origin. of water.
“Despite the economic impact of a thriving attraction like Everest on Nepal, the environmental consequences require urgent action“. The growing traffic in the area and the lack of space to deposit more faeces explain the group’s call to alert. And the situation is extreme. The pits covered only with earth and rock where, until 2014, the excrements were thrown are not enough any more. Thus, the waste was deposited in shallower areas, closer to the village of Gorak Shep and, also, near a river outlet of a glacier. The risk is clear and takes shape during the monsoon season, when there is a likelihood of contamination of the drinking water supplied by the local population.
With all this in mind and with the collaboration of the universities of Seattle and Kathmandu This project arises which, in addition to alerting, puts on the table an innovative solution. If all goes well, it will operate in an area so high, remote and cold that it will cast doubt on the viability of any innovation to solve the challenge that human feces bring.
However, the idea paid off, as much as for obtain recognition in the UIAA Mountain Protection awards, granted by the International Federation of Mountaineering and Climbing. After many years of working to find an anaerobic digestion system capable of operating at extreme temperatures and only with human feces, the collective founded by Dan Mazur and Garry Porter is at a crucial time for the project to be activated. “We have brought this pilot project to a point where it is ready for construction”, Porter explains before stressing the importance of this idea for the region’s tourism industry to be sustained in the future, but in a sustainable manner.
With him start of work scheduled for spring 2018 and the wish that its system for converting faeces into biogas will be fully operational in a year – “Just in time for the spring expedition season”– the drivers will not only solve the problem of the uncontrolled accumulation of excrement. In addition, this unique solar mechanism will transform faeces into an asset for local populations. So, on the one hand, the system will provide methane which can be used for cooking or lighting. In addition, it will produce another biological product, especially an effluent, which can be used as a fertilizer.
The benefits of this idea do not end there since, as they point out from this entity, the mechanism will succeed in ending the risks of contamination of drinking water, in addition to mitigating deforestation by reducing the use of wood for heating. With all, the bet could mean a before and an after for a unique area in the world heading into the twilight of success without a solution like this. Its promoters are so motivated by the potential results that they are already thinking outside the box. So, once the system is in place in this enclave, the idea could be applied to other parts of Nepal in order to expand the positive influence of tourism, while combating the negative.
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