"When I look back, I have no doubt that the most important things I have accomplished were neither the ascent of mountains nor my journeys to the ends of the globe. What is really close to my heart is that I have enabled the construction and daily life of schools and clinics for my dear friends in the Himalayas."
Edmund HILLARY, first climber at the top of Everest
A little history.
The Nepalese Normal Way
This is the track climbed by E. Hillary and S. Tenzing in 1953 following the opening of the mountain and it is still the most used route despite great objective dangers and stifling attendance.
This international opening allows the region to develop and the ascent permits finance public actions in one of the poorest countries in Asia. Today, tourism is the main source of income in this very steep and difficult-to-reach region.
Of course this mass tourism brings a lot of waste and that is why many expeditions have formed to clean the roof of the world. Unfortunately, they usually involve lowering a little lower share of the waste. Some materials are well valued, such as metals or some gas cartridges, but too much plastic ends up in open dumps or, worse, in rivers. These plastics then follow their path by polluting the Nepalese valleys and other adjoining countries before pouring into the ocean. There was an incinerator in Namche Bazar but it was damaged by the 2015 earthquake and was visibly undersized to handle all the waste.
The Everest region is called Khumbu. It is very remote and has no road access. The porters and sherpas must then carry all the equipment on the back of men.
The largest city in the region is called Namche Bazar, located at an altitude of 3,500 metres. Most treks reach it from the city of Lukla, which is the last city accessible by plane, at 2,800m. Then, treks often go to Everest Base Camp at 5,300 m located about 30 km away.
For a local population that has for the major concern to feed itself, one imagines that it is difficult to envisage a 50 km walk through the region to be able to descend its waste and those of tourists to civilization.
Tri-high for Everest.
It all starts in 2018, at the Grenoble film-mountain festival, when the screening of Jean-Michel Jorda's film Everest Green gives a concrete idea of a project to our adventurers, already aware of the issues of pollution in the mountains.
This was followed by contact with the director as well as many high-mountain actors in the Himalayas. The message is clear on both sides: THERE IS URGENCE!
Many expeditions go to clean up the peaks subjected to mass tourism. These are beautiful collective actions, where waste has often fallen lower into the valley but Nepal has no way of dealing with it.
Jean-Michel Jorda was seduced by our project and put us in contact with trusted premises with an ambitious goal: to install an infrastructure to treat waste in the Everest region.
A two or three day walk from Namche Bazar is Pangboche, surrounded by its high mountains. The last village inhabited year-round before the Everest base camp has been home to a small landfill near Dudh Koshi, the river of milk. As the locals have confirmed, this is a strategic location because it is the closest village to the base camp, which limits the distance to be made to get the waste down. On the other hand, it is close to other villages, which can make it a collection point.
It is also the village where Henry Sigayret, the mountaineer nicknamed Sherpasig, settled 40 years ago after leaving his Western life to settle there with his new Sherpa family. It allowed residents to have access to electricity before many other villages further down the valley. Thanks to his work, the inhabitants are very involved in the life of the village and a local association manages the facilities independently. They are also highly motivated to deal with the problem of waste. So it is up there that we will put down our suitcases and equipment for a few months to build an incinerator!!
So we chose to set up an incinerator, which turns out to be the right solution for this region. It will be used to burn non-recyclable waste, as a local organization, the CCPC, is responsible for dealing with what is recyclable.
The incinerator is now a process criticized for its emissions of particles during combustion. That's why we want to integrate a filter and an energy recovery system to limit its carbon impact. Moreover, our project is not limited to its simple construction as we try to educate locals and tourists about the production of waste. Indeed, the best way not to pollute is to limit the amount of waste.
You can follow our various articles on the design and operation of the incinerator as the adventure progresses.
For this mission, we will be accompanied by different actors:
- Our school, ENSE3 with its labs and teachers;
- Members of the Falchen Kangri project set up an incinerator in the Himalayas 20 years ago with INSA Lyon (thermal study, execution plans and feedback);
- A company specializing in incineration furnace with which we will carry out an electricity generation project.
It is essential in this project for our initiative, that the local people seize it for its perenity.
The Khumbi Illa Foundation with Namgyal Scherpa, allows us to connect the two important local organizations:
- SPCC (Sagarmatha Pollution Control Comittee), the organization in charge of waste management in the region.
- NMA (Nepal Moutaineering Association), a non-profit association with the main objective of protecting The Nepalese mountain environment.
These two important institutions in Nepal in the management of shipments will be able to redirect the waste generated by them to our facility.
Jean-Michel and Henry have also put us in touch with premises sensitive to this problem. This will help to deal with the waste produced in the surrounding villages. The confidence of the inhabitants towards Henri and his family will allow us to benefit from assistance in carrying out the work when we are on site and above all to make the installation sustainable.
The sports and scientific project.
Once the incinerator is installed, another adventure begins: we will discover the peaks and their glaciers above Pangboche.
The possibilities of treks are great and the program can be extensively reviewed following the work of the incinerator. The goal is to go on a trek for several days with the ascent of a summit of more than 6,000 meters of altitude. As it happens, a summit lends itself well to our expectations in the region: the Mera Peak at 6461 meters.
This summit, in addition to being very accessible for a first experience of the very high altitude, is the site of experimentation of an international program led by the CNRS. Indeed, it is up there that each year, at this time, the Grenoble scientists of the IGE (Institute of Geosciences of the Environment) meet to make measurements on the glacier at more than 6,000 m.
Mass balance, ablation and other bamboo-based measurements … it's all there. The aim is to see the past and future evolution of these huge water reservoirs, the risks and assets they represent for people, and how their evolutions are witnessing climate change in the world's highest region.
We will also go to see the pyramid of Lobuche. Built with heavy materials mounted on the backs of men and Yaks, it contrasts with the traditional habitat of Nepalese Khumbu. It is actually the base camp for scientists who go to take measurements in the mountains.
And then what?
The different feedbacks made us realize that it was essential to follow up on the project. We will ensure this sustainability with the various organizations we have presented above.
On the other hand, our school has several associations participating in international solidarity. We are in contact with them and plan to send engineering students every year to keep the momentum of the movement.
In addition to sustainability, we want to share our experience with you. This is a film that will be directed by Jean-Michel Jorda on our project. You can find the terms and conditions on the dedicated section.
We also want to share our experiences with partner schools and companies to raise awareness on a subject that concerns us all.