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Nepal Supreme Court limits mountaineering permit amid ecological concerns

Amritanshu Raj

The Supreme Court of Nepal has taken a significant step to protect its majestic peaks, including the iconic Mount Everest, by ordering the government to restrict the number of mountaineering permits issued. The decision comes amidst preparations for the spring climbing season when hundreds of adventurers flock to Nepal to conquer its towering summits. Lawyer Deepak Bikram Mishra, who initiated the petition urging for permit curtailment, confirmed the court’s verdict, emphasizing the need to address public concerns regarding the mountains and their fragile environment.


Limiting Climbers and Preserving the Environment

The apex court’s ruling, issued in late April and summarized this week, mandates a cap on the number of climbers allowed to ascend Nepal’s peaks. Additionally, the court has outlined measures for waste management and environmental preservation to safeguard the delicate ecosystem of the mountains. The court recognizes the capacity limitations of these natural wonders and asserts that an appropriate maximum number of permits must be determined and adhered to.

Nepal, renowned for hosting eight of the world’s ten highest peaks, including Mount Everest, currently grants permits to all applicants willing to pay $11,000 for the opportunity to scale the highest peak on Earth. Last year, authorities issued a record-breaking 478 permits for Everest alone. The surge in permits has led to concerns over overcrowding and its detrimental effects on climbers’ safety and the mountain’s ecosystem.

In 2019, Everest witnessed a harrowing human traffic jam, with teams facing hours-long waits at the summit amidst freezing temperatures and depleted oxygen levels. Tragically, overcrowding contributed to several deaths, highlighting the urgent need for regulations to manage the flow of climbers and mitigate risks. The court’s decision to limit permits aims to prevent such incidents in the future and prioritize the safety and well-being of climbers.

In addition to permit restrictions, the court verdict also imposes limitations on the use of helicopters, reserving them exclusively for emergency rescues. This measure seeks to ensure that helicopter services are utilized judiciously, primarily for life-saving purposes, rather than for convenience or non-essential reasons.


Calls for Informed Decision-Making

Responding to the court’s decision, Nima Nuru Sherpa, the president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, emphasized the importance of conducting thorough studies and consultations with stakeholders and relevant authorities before implementing such regulations. Sherpa’s statement underscores the complexity of managing mountaineering activities while balancing environmental conservation and adventure tourism, both of which are vital aspects of Nepal’s economy and identity.

As of now, Nepal has issued permits to 945 climbers for its mountains this year, including 403 permits for Everest. The court’s directive marks a significant shift in the approach to mountaineering regulation, signaling a commitment to sustainable tourism practices and environmental stewardship. By prioritizing the preservation of its natural treasures, Nepal reaffirms its status as a premier destination for mountaineers worldwide. Additionally, it sets an example for responsible tourism management in high-altitude environments.

Nepal’s Supreme Court’s decision to limit mountaineering permits and enforce environmental conservation measures reflects a proactive approach. It aims to address the challenges posed by increasing tourism in the Himalayan region. The allure of conquering towering peaks persists for adventurers. This emphasizes the need to balance their endeavors with protecting fragile ecosystems and ensuring the safety of climbers and the environment.

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