First, I want to pay tributes to my fellow French people and their Sherpa friends, who have organized an ambitious expedition to clean Mount Sagarmatha. Sagarmatha is the pride of Nepal and hundreds of climbers are trying summit it this year. We know it is a dangerous sport, so the climbers who attempt it are certainly bold people.
But Gérard Clermidy and his friends are not only courageous, they are also generous. They have raised funds, as much as 150000 €, for this team of 23 people, during the 40 days expedition, to clean a mountain, which is too often polluted by climbers, who only focus on their sporting performance.
A recent editorial in the Nepalese press stressed the concerns: tons of human excreta carelessly dumped, tons of garbage of all kinds. Since 2014, the law obliges climbers to bring back at least 8 kg of rubbish and it remains to be assessed yet how far that rule is respected, and how and where the rubbish is recycled. So the initiative of “Everest green” is highly commendable and I do hope it will increase the awareness of unchecked pollution generated by the increasing flow of tourists on the roof of the world.
Besides that specific action, Clermidy’s NGO Montagne et Partage has also funded the reconstruction of schools, including one I was proud to inaugurate with him last year in Dhading district.
Mountains are very important for all mankind and responsible tourism is a must. Climbers and trekkers must pay their due, including permits, guides and porters, which is vital for Nepal’s economy.
So this reception is about the mountain and all guests, whether public officials, trek agencies, NGOs and diplomats are related to the mountain, whether by their personal interest or by the flow of their fellow visitors.
France has many mountains, which culminate with the highest summit in Europe, the Mont Blanc. Therefore, mountain tourism in France is a century old experience.
Some 23% of French territory is in the mountains, with 300 ski resorts in six different regions, 30% of the European ski areas. Some 32% of our customers are foreigners, overall 10 million visitors each winter generate a 9 billion € revenues allowing 120 000 jobs.
A vibrant economic sector is serving that market with 400 companies, 70% of them with international involvement and famous business fairs are organized yearly in Grenoble and Chambery.
With that background, no wonder the mountain has been a very strong link between Nepal and France and that will continue.
It goes back to the epoch making climb by the late Maurice Herzog of Annapurna, the first 8000 m summit, in 1951. That epic story, which he narrated himself in his book, was followed by numbers of French alpinists and trekkers. That was the origin of a passionate friendship between French and Nepalese mountaineers and numbers of common actions, including mountain medicine, training of mountain and ski guides, support to the reconstruction, enhancement of livestock raising…etc.
Airbus helicopters are also famous in Nepalese mountains and I hope soon POMA, one of the leaders in cable car, will be allowed to provide transportation in Kathmandu valley.
The mountain is a significant EU policy as well, since it represents 36% of the EU and Switzerland’s territory with 18% of its population. The EU’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) funds specific actions in mountain livestock and the European Investment Bank (EIB) invests in mountain related infrastructure like hydropower and cable car. I wish a big success to “Everest green” which will soon become a TV documentary I hope we can watch in Nepal.
(Yves Carmona is the ambassador of France to Nepal)