Ozone Blog

A blog written by Rajendra Shende, Former Head of the OzonAction Branch, in his personal capacity. This blog does not reflect the policy or position of UNEP or the DTIE OzonAction Branch.
Mar 29

Written by: ozonAction
3/29/2011  RssIcon

Altitude: 4,000m – slightly less than half the height of Mount Everest also called as Sagarmatha in Nepal side and Chomolungma on Chinese side.

Location: Nepal - somewhere between Sanboche Airport at 3,800 m and Khumjung which is best known for its secondary school established by Sir Edmund Hillary.

Fifty-eight years ago, Sir Edmund Percival Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first human beings to reach the summit of Mount Everest on 29 May 1953. He and Tenzing succeeded in a slow but steady climb to the ‘Top of the World’.

I was talking with the vice principal of the school, Mr Sambhu Bastola, who has taught  in Khumjung Secondary School for about 18 years, around the same time I have been working in UNEP on the Montreal Protocol. From the place where we were chatting, I could see a panorama of the Himalayas, part of Sagarmatha National Park in the district of Solukhumbu bordering Nepal and China. We could see Mount Everest standing majestically in front of us with its brother Lhotse.

I have a number of books on Everest including one called ‘The Last Climb’ written about the expedition of George Mallory who never returned and nobody even knows whether he reached the summit at all! Chatting with Mr  Bastola was as engaging as any of my cherished books on the subject. While he did not reach the Top of the World, his work in school at the base of Everest was as inspiring as any of those who tried to conquer the great mountain..

About 15 students from Khumjung Secondary School stood around us as  I spoke to  teachers who had come to the awareness event on Ozone Layer Protection & Climate Change held 4,000m above sea level. Never before has such an event for school children been held at such an altitude and journalists from the BBC, Associate Press, Nepal Times and others were there to cover this unique event.

Mr Bastola said: “Mr Shende, do not think of this event as being at such a height on earth, rather that it is the event nearest to the stratosphere and of course nearest  to God above us!” I was taken aback with his reasoning and how this put things into perspective. My Himalayan trekking experience shows that mountain people may walk more and  talk less, but nevertheless  reason convincingly. We may have a lot to learn from them, particularly us in the UN!

School children were given posters, brochures, education material and games on ozone depletion. . The event was short, as we had to return  early to avoid unpredictable Himalayan weather and because the students told us that they had an English exam!

In 1987, when the implementation of the Montreal Protocol started, the majority of industry and governments thought that getting rid of substances like CFCs was next to impossible. CFCs were, at that time, intimately integrated into our daily lives and hundreds of billions of dollars of industry investment was built around these substances employing millions of workers. It was considered a ‘mission impossible’ just like climbing Mount Everest was before 1950s. But just like adventurous mountaineers, the Montreal Protocol community took ‘baby steps’, started small and then strengthened their grit and determination as they climbed higher and higher. Like Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the community slowly but surely reached the ‘top of the world’ using the lessons learnt and leveraging the skills acquired in earlier climbs.

During the climb, the two men came to the crux  of a ridge and a forty foot tall wall of exposed rock and hard ice that was the last obstacle to the formidable summit. By now they were exhausted. This is how Sir Edmund Hillary recalls this in his memoirs: “Leaving Tenzing Norgay to belay  me as best as he would, I jammed my way up, then kicking backwards , with my crampons, I sank their spikes deep into the frozen snow behind me and levered myself off the ground”.   From that moment, the rock wall was known as the “Hillary step”.

The Montreal Protocol now stands at the Hillary step, I said, while pointing to the spot next to the summit. The last of the ozone depleting gases – the HCFCs-  have yet to be phased out. Once this is done, we will be on ‘top of the world’.

The climb continues. Just like that of Hillary and Tenzing. It represents a real North- South cooperation to get the job done. It is the toughest moment in the history of the Montreal Protocol. But we are confident, we have our lessons from the last climb when we phased out CFCs. We will be reaching nearer to God, nearly touching the stratosphere. An inspiring story for the Climate Change community!

Categories: 2011
Location: Blogs Parent Separator Ozone Blog

3 comment(s) so far...


Re: Top of the World - Almost

Amazing and exciting project - congratulations to all involved. Cas.

By Online Cas on   10/5/2011

Re: Top of the World - Almost

It is an absolutly beautiful place! Nepal is an amazing place so far from what one is used to. Jerome Lott.

By Jerome Lott on   10/5/2011

Re: Top of the World - Almost

Nice article, its fantastic to see the way of living in Him, and the way of students. mountain_high.

By mountain_high on   10/5/2011
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