Climate change endangers Everest dwellers
Environmental campaigners and lawyers are calling on UNESCO to place Everest National Park (Sagarmatha National Park) on the World Heritage Danger List because of climate change, so that the legal duty to protect the area is respected. They warn that unless urgent action is taken, many Himalayan lakes could burst, threatening the lives of thousands of people and destroying a unique and irreplaceable environment.
A petition was handed to the World Heritage Committee in Paris on November 18. Petitioners include Sir David Attenborough, Sir Chris Bonington, Reinhold Messner and Stephen Vanables.
The melting of Himalayan glaciers as a result of climate change has swollen the Himalayan lakes, increasing the risk of catastrophic flooding. There is wide agreement that many lakes are at risk, but a lack of adequate monitoring means that there is no realistic assessment of how close they are to bursting. Putting Everest National Park on the Danger List would mean UNESCO would have to assess Nepal's glacial lakes and stabilise those most at risk.
Temba Tsheri Sherpa, who in 2001 at the age of 16 was the youngest to climb Everest said: "Everest is the pride of the nation, but more than this, it is a gift to the world. Lake Tsho-Ipa has formed near the area where I come from. Local people live in fear that the lake will burst."
Pemba Dorjee Sherpa, the fastest ever climber of Everest, who has climbed the mountain four times said: " Last year when Edmund Hillary came to Everest, he told me that so much snow had melted in the fifty years since he first climbed Everest. In 1953 snow and ice had reached all the way to base camp, but now it ends five miles above.
Catherine Pearce, Friends of the Earth's International Climate spokesperson said:" This will be the first time the World Heritage Committee has been asked to danger list a site due to climate change. We hope that UNESCO will demand that states take action on climate change, which is the root cause of these problems."
The World Heritage Committee is the statutory body responsible for decision-making on all matters related to the implementation of the World Heritage Convention. It meets once a year, in June.
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