Kumar Chaulagain/Kalpana Poudel
KATHMANDU, Feb 14: Nepal, small but a naturally beautiful country in the Himalayan region takes great pride for being home to the Mount Everest, world’s highest mountain peak which stands at 8848 meters above the sea level.
But questions frequently raised regarding its height draw the attention of bodies concerned, trigger discussions and debates and make media headlines.
And finally, to make all confusions about the height of the peak called Sagarmatha in Nepali clear, the government has already begun homework to (re) measure its height on its own for the first time, but works are yet to get a momentum.
Officials at the Survey Department under the Ministry of Land Reform and Management admitted that though initial–phase field works for measuring the peak have been already kicked off, the measurement process has failed to gain momentum due to technical reasons. Differing views, opinions, and claims about the height of the Mt Everest prompted the government to go with a process on its own to determine official and accurate figure.
Various claims and differing views and opinions about its height, Nepal not being able to present official figure on its own, varied measurement data presented by India and China sparking disputes at international level and unofficial reports about the change in its height following the 2015 April earthquake have led to confusions over the height of the world’s tallest peak, though the official height is 8,848 meters to date. Bearing these all in mind, the Department is in the process of determining the exact height and current positioning of the mountain.
It was rumored that the devastating quake may have impacted the peak, leading to the slight change (decrease) in its height.
The Department, before starting the process to measure the peak’s height, had invited experts/ scientists concerned from India, China and Italy to the two-day international seminar held on December 11-12 last year to discuss about the measurement process. The work procedure was prepared being based on the suggestions made by the seminar.
Prof Roger Witham from the Colorado University and the chief of Survey of India who was present in the discussion said they were happy to hear that Nepal was going to determine the height on its own, pledging all possible technical support to this regard, as stated by Department chief survey officer Sushil Dangol who is the coordinator of Mt Everest Measurement Secretariat.
Nepal summoned international expert s to home for consultation on the issue as it wanted to make the measurement unquestionable and all accepted, he added. Prior to this, the then Survey of India in 1954 had measured the peak’s height and put it at 8848 meters which Nepal has officially recognized to date and this figure has been established as official height of the Mt Everest globally.
Since then surveys conducted at different times by different agencies to measure the height ended up offering differing data.
According to the Department, a home team on October 24 last year had been in Solukhumbu to find out the control points that the Indian team in 1954 had used to measure the peak’s height. Such point was reportedly fixed at eight locations in Solukhumbu, two each in Khotang and Dolakha.
The Nepali team has so far found the point fixed at four locations in Solukhumbu. Search for point fixed at other places is underway. The Department looks forward to finishing the measurement works of initial phase within the next two years.
A 13-member team has already left for Madar along the Nepal-India border in Siraha for leveling work. The Survey of India will do all the leveling works up to Madar and the Nepali team will take up remaining works right from there. The Department expects to complete the leveling task from Siraha to Okhaldhunga within the current fiscal year. It hopes to bring a preliminary report about the measurement of peak by the next two years. Leveling works are going on from Salleri of Solukhumbu to Bansbari of Udaypur. Works are on to find out whether the April quake caused effects on the road leveling.
Department’s gravity machine is dysfunctional and it is yet to decide whether to purchase a new one and borrow from somewhere. But the budget issue matters – in the case of availability of budget required to buy a new machine, it will have its one new machine, otherwise, works will be done through a borrowed one.
The Department is using three methods to measure the mountain. Direct measurement, triangulation and gravity meter.
Likewise, global positioning system (GPS) is also used in measuring the mountain and China had in 2005 measured the height of the Mt Everest based on the same technology and set it to be at around 8,844 meters, but the results failed to get international acceptance.
“The Department is using a multi-methods based measurement technology in a bid to come up with indubitable findings and the help of climbers is necessary to undertake measurement works at higher altitude of the peak,” Dangol said adding that discussions to this regard are underway. Favourable time for measuring the peak will be only twice in a season. However, it is not certain that the measurement will conclude within the expected timeframe as untoward incident(s) of natural disaster could have a significant impact on such efforts, experts say.
NO BUDGETARY CONSTRAINT FOR PROJECT
Around Rs 250 million is estimated to cost to undertake this mission.
The government has allocated Rs 20 million under the initial phase for this noteworthy project. Earlier in 2011, the Department had prepared a working procedure for re-measuring the mountain, but budget issues hampered the further progress. According to joint spokesperson at the Ministry of Land Reform and Management, Punya Bikram Poudel, the government has made sure the allocation of remaining budget to carry out the measurement works.
Talking to RSS, he said the Ministry had last year proposed to conduct the (re) measurement of the peak with the use of local human and other resources and the government put the project in its top priority in the budget speech and in its policies and programs and the Ministry has proceeded with the project accordingly.
Everest’s height was first measured at 8,840 meters above the sea level in 1856 by a team led by George Everest who served the Surveyor General of India from 1830 to 1843. The peak was named the Mount Everest in honor of its first surveyor.
Later in 1955, the figure was increased by eight meters and established as the official height to date.