NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat mission is set to reach the top of the world.
A 34-member Indian Army mountaineering team is preparing for a challenging journey to scale Mount Everest to mark the golden jubilee of the first Indian conquest of the world’s highest peak.
The team has also been tasked with cleaning the slopes of Everest and bringing down non-biodegradable mountaineering waste that’s been left behind by generations of mountain climbers.
“Fifty years ago, an Indian team led by Captain (then Lieutenant Commander) M.S. Kohli had scaled Mount Everest (Sagarmatha) for the first time. Major A.S. Cheema became the first Indian to conquer the summit. This expedition marks the golden jubilee of the first ascent to the roof of the world by an Indian,” top sources in the Directorate General of Military Training told Mail Today.
The team, which will leave for Kathmandu on April 4 and plan the ascent in mid-May, comprises six officers and 24 other ranks.
“This is a very ambitious mission. The team will be split into two groups. One group will attempt to climb Mount Everest while the second will set out to scale Mount Lahotse, the fourth highest peak in the world. The team members will also participate in the extreme high-altitude marathon in the Himalayas,” the sources added.
The Indian team has been undergoing special endurance and mountaineering training for the high-altitude mission. During the period of the charge on the mountain, 30 days have been set aside for the army team’s Swachh Everest mission.
The team will collect all non-biodegradable mountaineering waste dumped by generations of climbers and, along with the sherpas, bring it down.
Apart from the base camp, at an altitude of 17,700 feet, there are four other camps before the summit at 8,848 metres (29,028 feet). The team, along with local sherpas and other volunteers, will docket the waste and initiate a Swachh Everest mission at Camps 1, 2, 3 and 4 at unforgiving altitudes between 19,697 feet and 29,028 feet.
The world’s most iconic mountain is also a notorious trash heap. On Mount Everest, tents, sleeping bags, oxygen cylinders and even the corpses of climbers who never made it down remain.
“Sadly, Mount Everest is now also called the world’s highest junkyard. Our aim is to carry forward our prime minister’s dream of cleanliness everywhere, including at the top of the world. We will target the mountaineering waste from Camp 1 (19,695 feet) to the summit (29,028 feet). There are old cylinders, tents, tins, packets, equipment and other mountaineering waste. Apart from our own haversacks weighing 10 kg each, we intend to bring in another 10 kg each on the trip,” Major Ranveer Singh Jamval, the team leader who has successfully scaled Mount Everest twice already, told Mail Today.
The Indian Army team aims to bring at least 4,000 kg of waste from the high-altitude camps down to the base camp, and then the other volunteers will take over the drive to clean the Himalayas.
“The army mountaineers aim to give back to Sagarmatha a measure of reverence that she merits and contribute to restoring the ecological balance of the route,” an official said.
The army says the gesture will convey to the world Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of a clean environment.
“Our prime minister’s message of Swachh Bharat has been received well across the country; our mountaineers will now take it to the top of the world and from there spread it across the globe,” he added.
Experts on job
The team led by Major Jamwal, an extremely experienced mountaineer, will attempt to scale Mount Everest.
“The team has been training hard for over a year for this mission. They have scaled other peaks in India as part of the training. On each mission, no non-biodegradable waste was left behind. This is the new standard operating procedure to scale the peaks and yet protect the environment,” army sources said.
Eco-Everest clean-up expeditions, led by Dawa Steven Sherpa each year since 2008, have retrieved 15,000 kg of trash, but there are no estimates of the volume of garbage left behind.
“I’ve seen this garbage,” Frits Vrijlandt, president of the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA), who summited the 29,028-ft peak in 2000, told NBC News.
“It's not a trip to Disneyland,” he added.
In 2012, Nepali artists sculpted into works of art 1.5 metric tonnes of trash taken from Mount Everest as part of an awareness campaign to keep the summit pristine.