Widows of Nepal's Sherpa guides fear rising climate-fuelling risks

Widows of Nepal’s Sherpa guides fear rising climate-fuelling risks

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Mingma Sherpa, president of the Nepali firm Seven Summit Treks, said he has heard about 500 Sherpa guides leave the industry in the past five years to seek other work abroad – and many more young people plan to follow suit .

The main drivers are increased danger and a lack of social security or welfare support – beyond mandatory life compensation – for guides who die during expeditions, he said.

“We have been demanding (welfare funds) for many years, but the government is not serious about the issues of the Sherpas,” he said.

Separately, Dhananjay Regmi, head of Nepal’s tourism board, said the life insurance payout was “too low” and should be increased sixfold to at least 10 million rupees ($75,000).

increasing avalanche risk

According to NMA president Nima Nooru Sherpa, although the Sherpas’ local knowledge makes them well-accustomed to the tough conditions climbing Nepal’s mountains, the changing seasons and erratic weather are making their work risky.

Like Mingma Sherpa, Nima Nuru said her union is urging the government to set up a welfare fund that would also cover health and education costs for the families of the deceased.

A 2020 study by academics at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu found that while avalanches and casualties were most common in the Khumbu region – which is the Nepali side of Mount Everest – there was also an increase in such incidents and deaths in other parts of Nepal .

According to Indira Kandel, senior meteorologist at the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, unusual weather conditions are on the rise in Nepal.

For example, the monsoon season used to end by the end of September but now lasts till the second week of October, he said.

Mingma Sherpa of Seven Summit Treks said his company’s expeditions are increasingly being hit by more challenging weather.

“Heavy snowfall during the climbing season increases the risk of avalanches as new snow does not accumulate,” he said.

According to Santosh Nepal, a researcher at the International Water Management Institute, as climate change warms the planet, the Himalayan region will lose a third of its glacial ice mass by the end of the century “even in “(the most) optimistic climate scenarios”. ,

“In business-as-usual conditions, two-thirds of the glaciers will disappear,” he said.

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