China to build major visitor centre on Mount Everest

29-Dec-2016 Intellasia | News.com.au | 6:00 AM Print This Post

MOUNT Everest is one of the most alluring places on Earth.

Tens of thousands of tourists trek through Nepal to reach the base camp each year, while thousands more attempt to reach the summit.

It’s big business, and while it’s excellent for the local economy, there is concern over the huge amounts of waste left behind every summer, as well as the lack of qualified guides and the risks being taken to get high-paying tourists to the top.

It could be about to get much, much worse.

Everest straddles the border of Nepal and Tibet, and local media reports the Chinese government has plans to build a huge visitor centre on their side of the mountain.

China Today reports the $20.4 million dollar development will include a museum and hotel, as well as shops for mountaineers to buy supplies and repair equipment.

Construction will begin in 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2019.

The plan is not without its critics.

In previous climbing seasons, mountaineers have avoided the Tibetan side due to ongoing conflicts between Tibet and China, as well as a lack of infrastructure.

The Gangkar development will also include a helipad and a medical centre.

Journalist Lilit Marcus, of Conde Nast Traveler, writes that while a helipad will make it easier for helicopters to rescue injured climbers in the event of an avalanche or storm, the mountain’s base camp could simply become an upscale hangout for rich non-climbers”.

An example of this was the disaster in 1996, when 12 people died in a single day after being caught in a blizzard near the summit.

One of them, New York socialite Sandy Pittman, famously paid an outrageous sum to be guided to the top after failing to reach the top on two previous attempts.

It was suggested in John Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air that this practice caused congestion and bottlenecks in dangerous places on the mountain, and that the guides took unnecessary risks to get wealthy guests to the top.

A massive new infrastructure project in Tibet will be excellent for the economy, as it will certainly provide a steady stream of income to an otherwise impoverished region.

It could also be a good thing in terms of stability, as an influx of tourists from other parts of China – and indeed the world – will cast a spotlight on the region.

However, while climbers will undoubtedly appreciate the new infrastructure and access to the mountain, it could turn the mountain into a death-trap for unprepared amateurs.

http://www.news.com.au/travel/world-travel/asia/china-to-build-major-visitor-centre-on-mount-everest/news-story/85822c90c88b328d5194f17837dd5ae0

 


Category: China

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