Saturday, 5 December 2009

Nepal holds Cabinet meeting on Everest

Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent

Nepal held the world’s highest Cabinet meeting today as ministers wearing oxygen masks gathered on the slopes of Mount Everest to highlight the danger that global warming poses to Himalayan glaciers.
The 23 Cabinet members, also wearing purple sashes reading “Save the Himalayas”, sat at folding tables next to the Everest base camp at an altitude of 17,192ft (5,250 metres).They signed a commitment to tighten environmental regulations and expand protected areas before flying back to Kathmandu.
“The Everest declaration was a message to minimise the negative impact of climate change on Mount Everest and other Himalayan mountains,” said Madhav Kumar Nepal, the Prime Minister.
Many of the ministers are in their seventies, but they avoided altitude sickness by staying the previous night in a nearby town at 9,180ft. Four ministers declined to attend either because of health concerns or because they were travelling.

Thakur Sharma, the Environment Minister, said that the event was designed “to get the world’s attention on the impact global warming is having on underdeveloped countries” before the climate change conference in Copenhagen.
He said that Nepal would urge wealthy countries to commit 1.5 per cent of their earnings to help poorer nations to protect the environment.
The country is also sending some of its most famous Everest climbers to highlight the challenges facing Nepal, such as floods from glacier melting, erratic rains, longer dry spells and unprecedented forest fires.
Today's meeting follows the first underwater Cabinet, held in the Maldives in October to highlight the threat of rising sea levels to the archipelago.