Chinese officials have announced that the Mount Everest base camp in Tibet is to be closed to tourists ‘until further notice’, so that the rubbish that has piled up there can be cleaned up.
A rumour had sprung up – stemming from a misinterpretation of the announcement – suggesting that the base camp would be shut down permanently, but that is not in fact the case.
Chinese state news agency Xinhua has reported that ordinary tourists will still be allowed to visit areas near the Rongpo monastery (approximately 5,000 above sea level), while those with climbing permits will be allowed to travel higher to the base camp. The limited numbers who will be allowed there will, according to an official from the Chinese Mountaineering Association, have to meet strict criteria as part of efforts to protect the local environment.
Last year, workers reportedly cleared 8.4 tons of rubbish that had collected in the area; below that, a further 335 tons had been cleared. A large task force has been assembled to clear the remaining waste.
The base camp received 40,000 visitors in 2015, the most recent data available, and the large footfall has had a major impact on the local ecology.