The Italian Pyramid: Scientific Observatory at the Top of the World

View of the Italian Pyramid, at 5,050 m a.s.l. located 20
minutes awayfrom Lobouche, Nepal. Credit: Valentina Gasbarri

By Valentina Gasbarri
MILAN, Italy, Feb 27 2020 (IPS)

 
Hello! Are you Italian?
No, I’m from Nepal.
Ops.

Kaji Bista is the staff manager of the Ev-K2-CNR’s innovative
Pyramid International Laboratory/Observatory (known as the Italian
Pyramid) at 5,050 m a.s.l. located in Lobouche.

He usually does not welcome trekkers, unless they stay overnight
in the Nepali style lodge, located in the base of the building.

When planning the Everest Base Camp Trek, the last thing one
would expect to find is a Pyramid that made it to the Guinness Book
of World Records in 1998 for being the highest point in the
world.

Covered with Perspex solar panels and sitting atop a low-stone
building, the Everest Pyramid is about 20 minutes away from
Lobuche. Crossing the glacier and a narrow lunar valley, the route
reveals the vista of a past, glorious and visionary research
center.

Our curiosity opened up a way for me to enter the forbidden area
– entry reserved only for researchers. Inside the Pyramid there
were a number of warm, clean, western-style rooms, crammed with
scientific equipment, advanced lab machinery and paper files.
Italian electronics labels and stickers were everywhere.

“Look – it’s just like being at home!” I said.
“I’m Italian and here it’s so strange to be in a place thats
familiar, thousands of kilometers away”.

Kaji smiled, maybe not surprised anymore by my obvious
reaction.

He then narrated the story of the Italian research center.
It all started more than 30 years ago, when in 1986 an American
expedition declared K2 was taller than the Everest. It was the
beginning of a mountaineering competition between Italy and the
US.

Agostino Da Polenza and Prof. Ardito Desio, both researchers
could not resist this challenge and, in 1987, they combined their
scientific and mountaineering knowledge to launch the “Ev-K2-CNR
Project” in collaboration with the Italian National Research
Council (CNR).

They organized expeditions which put mountaineering at the
service of science and re-measured both mountains using traditional
survey techniques and innovative GPS (Global Positioning System)
measurements.

Not only did they confirm Everest’s title but they also set
the standard for altitudemeasurements to come.

Two years later, the two researchers founded the Ev-K2-CNR
Committee to continue promoting technological and scientific
research at high altitude.

Since then, Ev-K2-CNR has been recognized for this unique
scientific research base, the quality and importance of the
research carried out there and the specialized scientific
contributions, combining technical and logistics know-how with
scientific excellence.

I asked Kaji if he has opened the place up as a lodge for
trekkers too.
He smiled and replied saying that this was the only thing he could
do as the only manager still left there.

“ I had to. I’ve not been paid a salary for three and a half
years”.
The Italian government stopped funding the Centre since 2015.

Kaji went on to say that they were a team of 15 people and he
has been a staff manager for more than15 years. Now, he is doing
more or less everything from maintaining the facility and
collecting all the data himself.

“If I leave, the research station will close. So, for my
income now I offer the empty space as a trekking lodge for the
scientists and journalists visits, too”.

Kaji hopes the new Italian government will free up some funds to
finance the Centre.

Microplastics in the Himalayas: Lessons-learned and Best
Practices

Ev-K2-CNR continues to promote technological and scientific
research at high altitude on health, climate change and environment
as well develop new technologies.

One of the major projects carried out, despite the financial
challenges, is one on micro-plastics, promoted by the Nepalese
Government.

According to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA),
plastic pollution has emerged as an environmental crisis of
international concern. With the scale of global plastic pollution
now painfully clear, it is high time for corporations and
governments to take into consideration scientific-based research to
find alternatives to plastics.

“It is a testament to how ubiquitous this pervasive material
has become in our society that it can now be easily found even on
the very highest point on our planet – Mount Everest, in the
Himalayas” the EIA states.

In an unprecedented clean-up campaign launched by the Nepali
Government in 2019, over four tonnes of plastic debris were
collected in the high-altitude region of the Everest in the first
five days alone. Consequently, since January, the Nepalese
authorities have banned single-use plastics in the Everest region
in a bid to cut down on waste left by climbers.

All plastic drinking bottles and plastics of less than 30
microns in width will be banned in the province.

The government says the army will be used for the task, which
will cost 860 million Nepali rupees ($7.5m). It has also brought in
measures to encourage people not to litter, asking for a $400
deposit before climbing, which is returned if they bring their
waste back down with them.

Travel agencies and sherpas have a key role to play in
sensitising trekkers and citizens to curb plastic waste.

During treks, the waste is coming from a variety of products,
such as climbing gear and other rubbish like food wrappers, cans
and bottles. Often, abandoned oxygen and cooking gas cylinders are
found on the higher levels to the Summit.

Recently, iced bodies have also being discovered, creating a
global debate on the expeditions and impact on the landscape and
environment in the Mt. Everest region.

Scientific tools outside the building. Unfortunately, since 2015
the research projects are all frozen due to lack of funding from
the Italian Government. Credit: Valentina Gasbarri

Few Everest Base Camp trekkers expect to find a pyramid high in
the Himalayas. Covered in solar panels and sitting atop a low stone
building, the Everest Pyramid is an unusual sight among the rock
and snow of the mountains. Credit: Valentina Gasbarri

Entrance of the Research Center entered in 1998 in the Guinness
Book of World Records for being the highest in the world. Credit:
Valentina Gasbarri

Kaji and Sherpa Paesang collecting samples of water for studying
the effects on microplastics on water and soil in the Khumbu
Valley. Credit: Valentina Gasbarri

Plastic Waste in the Everest Base Camp Trekking Route. Plastics
do not quicklybiodegrade, but instead break down into smaller
pieces. This has led the NepaleseGovernment to ban single-use
plastics from 2020. Credit: Valentina Gasbarri

Arriving close to the highest point in the world, one can still
find plastic waste and garbage to collect.
Ev-K2-CNR Side Event at the 15th meeting of the UN Committee on
SustainableDevelopment, New York (2007). Credit: Valentina
Gasbarri

Tourists and trekkers are considered one of the biggest
polluters in the Everest Region.
Education and Awareness Raising campaigns would be critical to
educate people to adoptsustainable tourism practices. Credit:
Valentina Gasbarri

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The Italian Pyramid: Scientific Observatory at the Top of the
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Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
The Italian Pyramid: Scientific Observatory at the Top of the World