Nepali Times
Climbing to keep the Himalaya alive


WARMING UP: Dawa Steven Sherpa on the summit of Chomolungma this year, sees evidence of climate change everywhere in the Himalaya and says it is also making mountaineering more dangerous.
Dawa Steven Sherpa, Managing Director of Asian Trekking, has a lot of stories to tell. At an interaction program to raise awareness about climate change in the Himalaya this week, he stepped up on behalf of the tourist industry to share the evidence he has seen of global warming melting the mountains and what can be done to deal with it.
He's certainly qualified to do so, and not just because he's climbed Chomolungma twice: in recognition of his wide-ranging efforts to promote responsible trekking in the Khumbu region and elsewhere, the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) has named him one of their Climate Ambassadors.

Not that being a Climate Ambassador comes with a predefined set of responsibilities. "Just continue to do what you're doing," Dawa was told. And he's doing plenty.

He has a bakery at Everest Base Camp that runs an innovative 'cash for trash' program for locals, organised the Beat the GLOF Imja Action Run in Khumbu in July, and through Asian Trekking has pioneered the use of Restop portable toilet bags and oxygen-efficient masks for mountaineering. He hopes the trekking industry in Nepal will follow his lead, if not for environmental then for economic reasons.

TOP CLIMATE AMBASSADOR: As a reminder to the world of its responsibility towards preserving its global heritage, Apa Sherpa carried the message 'Stop Climate Change, Let the Himalayas Live' up to the summit on his 19th world-record ascent of Chomolungma in May. The WWF campaign Climate for Life seeks to draw global attention to climate change impacts in the Himalaya. WWF hopes to plug the awareness gap between Nepalis and their leaders on climate change.
Dawa feels that as Nepalis, we are in danger of "losing our identity" as a result of climate change. An important part of our identity on the global stage, after all, is that of being the 'roof of the world'. We may even have to rename our mountains, he says, citing the example of Ama Dablam ('Mother with Necklace'). Ama Dablam lost its distinctive necklace of ice in a huge avalanche in 2006.

Dawa tells of how his father drove yaks across Gokyo's Ngozumpa glacier with ease half a century ago. Today, the Cho La trek across the glacier is considered one of the toughest around. "Some time back at Base Camp," Dawa continues, "I was sitting around with some guys who'd been trekking for thirty, forty years. Suddenly this big black fly started buzzing around us. We just looked at each other in silence. A fly at 5,360 metres?"

It's clear Dawa takes climate change personally. But there's one story he doesn't want to have to tell. His father is Nepali, but his mother is from one of the Low Countries, Belgium, which lies below 300 metres above sea level. The last thing he wants, he says, is for "the country of my mother to be drowned by the country of my father".

Climate week

It's the week of climate change here. Everyone from school children to the prime minister is getting in on the act:

Kathmandu to Copenhagen 2009:
Regional Climate Change Conference
August 31-September 1, Hotel Hyatt Regency, Kathmandu

UK Nepal Climate Change Film Competition Awards
August 31, Hotel Hyatt Regency, Kathmandu
(films to be screened at the end of the day's sessions, as well as
at the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival 2009,
10-14 December)

Nepal Day, Kathmandu to Copenhagen 2009
September 2, Hotel Hyatt Regency, Kathmandu
Open to Nepali institutions interested in learning about
climate change.

South Asian Youth Summit on Climate Change 2009,
Road to Copenhagen
September 3-6, Mirabel Resort Hotel, Dhulikhel

In full retreat - FROM ISSUE #466 (28 AUG 2009 - 03 SEPT 2009)
Climate climax - FROM ISSUE #466 (28 AUG 2009 - 03 SEPT 2009)
"Nepal is a potential winner" - FROM ISSUE #466 (28 AUG 2009 - 03 SEPT 2009)
A climate for change - FROM ISSUE #466 (28 AUG 2009 - 03 SEPT 2009)

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)