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Thursday, October 22, 2020
MILAN, Italy, Feb 27 2020 (IPS) - Hello! Are you Italian?
No, I’m from Nepal.
Kaji Bista is the staff manager of the Ev-K2-CNR’s innovative Pyramid International Laboratory/Observatory (known as the Italian Pyramid) at 5,050 m a.s.l. located in Lobouche.
He usually does not welcome trekkers, unless they stay overnight in the Nepali style lodge, located in the base of the building.
When planning the Everest Base Camp Trek, the last thing one would expect to find is a Pyramid that made it to the Guinness Book of World Records in 1998 for being the highest point in the world.
Covered with Perspex solar panels and sitting atop a low-stone building, the Everest Pyramid is about 20 minutes away from Lobuche. Crossing the glacier and a narrow lunar valley, the route reveals the vista of a past, glorious and visionary research center.
Our curiosity opened up a way for me to enter the forbidden area – entry reserved only for researchers. Inside the Pyramid there were a number of warm, clean, western-style rooms, crammed with scientific equipment, advanced lab machinery and paper files. Italian electronics labels and stickers were everywhere.
“Look – it’s just like being at home!” I said.
“I’m Italian and here it’s so strange to be in a place thats familiar, thousands of kilometers away”.
Kaji smiled, maybe not surprised anymore by my obvious reaction.
He then narrated the story of the Italian research center.
It all started more than 30 years ago, when in 1986 an American expedition declared K2 was taller than the Everest. It was the beginning of a mountaineering competition between Italy and the US.
Agostino Da Polenza and Prof. Ardito Desio, both researchers could not resist this challenge and, in 1987, they combined their scientific and mountaineering knowledge to launch the “Ev-K2-CNR Project” in collaboration with the Italian National Research Council (CNR).
They organized expeditions which put mountaineering at the service of science and re-measured both mountains using traditional survey techniques and innovative GPS (Global Positioning System) measurements.
Not only did they confirm Everest’s title but they also set the standard for altitudemeasurements to come.
Two years later, the two researchers founded the Ev-K2-CNR Committee to continue promoting technological and scientific research at high altitude.
Since then, Ev-K2-CNR has been recognized for this unique scientific research base, the quality and importance of the research carried out there and the specialized scientific contributions, combining technical and logistics know-how with scientific excellence.
I asked Kaji if he has opened the place up as a lodge for trekkers too.
He smiled and replied saying that this was the only thing he could do as the only manager still left there.
“ I had to. I’ve not been paid a salary for three and a half years”.
The Italian government stopped funding the Centre since 2015.
Kaji went on to say that they were a team of 15 people and he has been a staff manager for more than15 years. Now, he is doing more or less everything from maintaining the facility and collecting all the data himself.
“If I leave, the research station will close. So, for my income now I offer the empty space as a trekking lodge for the scientists and journalists visits, too”.
Kaji hopes the new Italian government will free up some funds to finance the Centre.
Microplastics in the Himalayas: Lessons-learned and Best Practices
Ev-K2-CNR continues to promote technological and scientific research at high altitude on health, climate change and environment as well develop new technologies.
One of the major projects carried out, despite the financial challenges, is one on micro-plastics, promoted by the Nepalese Government.
According to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), plastic pollution has emerged as an environmental crisis of international concern. With the scale of global plastic pollution now painfully clear, it is high time for corporations and governments to take into consideration scientific-based research to find alternatives to plastics.
“It is a testament to how ubiquitous this pervasive material has become in our society that it can now be easily found even on the very highest point on our planet – Mount Everest, in the Himalayas” the EIA states.
In an unprecedented clean-up campaign launched by the Nepali Government in 2019, over four tonnes of plastic debris were collected in the high-altitude region of the Everest in the first five days alone. Consequently, since January, the Nepalese authorities have banned single-use plastics in the Everest region in a bid to cut down on waste left by climbers.
All plastic drinking bottles and plastics of less than 30 microns in width will be banned in the province.
The government says the army will be used for the task, which will cost 860 million Nepali rupees ($7.5m). It has also brought in measures to encourage people not to litter, asking for a $400 deposit before climbing, which is returned if they bring their waste back down with them.
Travel agencies and sherpas have a key role to play in sensitising trekkers and citizens to curb plastic waste.
During treks, the waste is coming from a variety of products, such as climbing gear and other rubbish like food wrappers, cans and bottles. Often, abandoned oxygen and cooking gas cylinders are found on the higher levels to the Summit.
Recently, iced bodies have also being discovered, creating a global debate on the expeditions and impact on the landscape and environment in the Mt. Everest region.
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