ISLAMABAD, Oct 21 (APP):After polluting the earth surface environment, the human beings are now polluting the hilltops with dozens of climbers of K2, the second highest peak of the world, leave behind their waste after scaling the top.
It is worrisome that if the climbers who go up to the vertical limits taking along essential stuff to the heights, do not bring their waste back to base-point, then who will climb the K2, specially to cleaning their trash?
In year 2022, record number of local and international climbers got registered for climbing K2 and trekking on Baltoro Glacier and the number get higher when their supporting staff and porters was also counted.
K2 was much friendly for climbing and scaling it this year. But, as the climbing season was over, the social and other media forums were flooded with the pictures highlighting trash and pollution at K2.
Although the social media and environmental activists blamed the Central Karakoram National Park (CKNP) management for the pollution, Director Tourism and Culture, Gilgit Baltistan, Yasir Hussain, keeping K2 clean is a shared responsibility and “we cannot exonerate climbers from their responsibilities who leave behind their waste after scaling the peak.”
He said, almost 90 percent of Pakistan’s mountaineering is in Gilgit Baltistan region, and all Eight-Thousanders, except Nanga Parbat are at CKNP – the largest park of the country spreading over as many as six districts.
“The park has its own management system that organizes various activities and no one can undertake any activity without permission,” Yasir Hussain said. “All mountaineers need to take permission from Gilgit Baltistan Government, Tourism Department to trek or to climb mountains in these areas.”
Yasir said this year K2 climbing and trekking has the highest record of national and international mountaineers. There is no harm in climbing or trekking activities but not at the cost of cleanliness and environmental conservation.
“Unfortunately, the climbers leave behind much of their trash causing pollution although it was their moral obligation to save the picturesque and beautiful region from waste and pollution,” Yasir said.
“The apathy is that instead of protecting environment by bringing back their waste, they baselessly propagate at social media against CKNP holding it responsible for pollution at K2 and other peaks,” he added.
Keeping in view this practice, the government of Gilgit Baltistan is formulating a policy to charge fee against both local and foreign mountaineers and ensuring cleanliness of this national park.
During the recent clean up drive, the CKNP has removed 2250 KG of trash from Camp 3, 4 and 5 including tents, crampons, empty cylinders of oxygen, ropes. This stuff is usually used by the mountaineers who after expedition leave it behind stuffing the base camps.
“We have now changed the format of debriefing policies. The one pager form has been taken to seven pages to record the performance,” Director Culture and Tourism said. “We are also ensuring on the part of tour operators that no trekkers or mountaineer goes to CKNP without tour operator.”
“The main requirement in the debriefing form is the signature of CKNP representative and those using the unsigned forms will be fined with minimum US$ 4000,” the Director said. “Now the place is clear from trash and some people are using old pictures to raise funds.”
According to information gathered from the area, most of the people blame some conventional and irresponsible tour operator for dumping trash at peaks and the base camps. However, the operators believing in responsible and sustainable tourism fulfill their responsibilities of cleanliness and environmental protection.
Meanwhile, Minister for Tourism Gilgit Baltistan, Raja Nasir Ali Khan has called upon the tour operators and porters to fully abide by rules and ensure their trash back as the GB government is not charging any fee for it.
“We only charge environmental fee for supporting local communities through confidence building measures to mobilize them for protection of this park. An amount from this fee is spent for their development,” he added.
The minister said, for the next season, the GB government has planned a joint activity with NIMS (Nirmal Purja, a Nepalese mountaineer who holds multiple mountaineering world records) for cleaning the peaks.
“We shall be utilizing expertise of high altitude porters to collect waste and the trash left behind the climbers,” he added. “Same model would be applied on Nanga Parbat.”
He informed that such porters would be paid on per kg basis as it is direly needed that the area remains hygienic and cleaner to tract more and more tourists.
Pakistan is already earning a meager foreign exchange despite having unmatched bounties of the nature and such irresponsible practices of the visitors would further damage the tourism industry.
Keeping in view the whole scenario, it is a shared responsibility of the tourists and tour operators to ensure environmental protection and cleanliness of this area. Moreover, the Gilgit Baltistan government and the tourism department must ensure strict implementation of tourism related laws and rules to keep this industry going in a beneficial manner and attract much more foreign tourists for revenue earning and welfare of the local people.