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An Everest season like no other in Nepal amid a deadly pandemic | Nepal News

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Lakpa Sherpa has climbed Everest seven times. But he says this year’s season, which ended this week and was marked by coronavirus, cyclones and misinformation, was the most challenging of his career.

The pandemic forced a complete shutdown of Nepal’s mountaineering industry in 2020, dealing a harsh blow to the tiny Himalayan country’s tourism-dependent economy.

This spring, however, the allure of the highest peak in the world brought climbers rushing back as Nepal issued a record 408 permits to ascend Everest, worth about $4.2m.

Quarantine restrictions were eased to promote the climbing rebound, but there were also no clear plans to test for, isolate or control an outbreak, making the already dangerous climb even riskier.

The warmer spring weather usually signals safer conditions for scaling Everest and other Himalayan peaks, but this year it coincided with a deadly second wave of virus infections engulfing Nepal, reports of more than 9,000 daily cases in May.

 

Weeks after the peak reopened, a Norwegian climber, Erlend Ness, confirmed that he fell sick at base camp and then tested positive in Kathmandu after he was evacuated. Other cases followed.

“There used to be coughs, common colds and risk of getting into avalanches and crevasses in the past. But this year, the danger was if we got infected from COVID, we would not be able to climb up because it makes breathing difficult and causes fatigue,” said guide Mingma Dorji Sherpa.

Despite the precautions teams tried to take – including masking, sanitising and isolating – virus cases began to spread.

Pilots in PPE suits arrived to evacuate dozens of suspected COVID-19 patients out of the area and at least two companies cancelled expeditions after team members tested positive.

Many climbers confirmed their diagnosis on social media and blogs, including some who had reached the summit.

When Icelandic duo Sigurdur Sveinsson and Heimir Hallgrimsson began coughing as they approached 7,000 metres (about 23,000 feet), they suspected they had caught the virus. They made it to the summit, 8,849 metres (29,000 feet) above sea level, but their symptoms became stronger as they descended.

“In Camp 2, we were both very sick from coughing, headaches and other fatigue. We suspected that not everything was perfect and we needed to get down as fast as possible,” they said in a statement last week.

Both tested positive on reaching the base camp and isolated themselves in their tents.

Yet authorities in Nepal have not acknowledged a single case on the mountain, with the stakes high after last year’s shutdown cost one of Asia’s poorest countries millions in lost revenue as porters and guides for well-heeled foreign climbers were left without income.

Expedition organisers have also self-censored, leaving no way to estimate the actual number of cases among Everest climbers and guides.

“There is no excuse for the blatant lies, denials, and cover-ups committed by the (government) this season,” mountaineering blogger Alan Arnette wrote on Friday.

“Do they understand that their actions only undermine the very credibility they need to effectively manage their resources?”

Lukas Furtenbach, who was the first to call off his expedition because of the COVID-19 outbreak, says the government should extend the validity of the $11,000 licence his clients purchased to climb Everest.

“Nepal invited foreign expeditions to come and assured us of COVID safety … And my clients did not feel safe at the base camp,” he said.

Through it all, Lakpa Sherpa felt he had to persevere with the expeditions his Pioneer Adventure had booked for 23 clients.

“This season was very difficult. We were already working under pressure because of COVID, and then the weather also betrayed us,” he told AFP news agency.

Those willing to risk coronavirus infections faced a curtailed window to climb.

The government put limits on the number of climbers who could scale at any given time to avoid a traffic jam on the peak, and two cyclones that hit India in May further restricted the three-month season.

When the second of those cyclones hit eastern India last week, it caused a huge snowstorm on Everest, burying the tents of the last climbers waiting to summit.

Final numbers are yet to be announced, but the tourism department estimates that approximately 400 climbers reached the summit this year, far less than the 644 in 2019 when fewer permits were issued.

German climber Billi Bierling, who manages a database that records summits, said the events of this year are unlikely to dim interest in Everest.

“Maybe we will think about it and reflect on what happened in 2021, but once this is over, expedition operators and climbers will be coming back.”

This was the third time in the last decade that Everest’s summit sat empty. Climbers abandoned the mountain after the 2015 earthquake triggered an avalanche, killing 18 people.

In 2014, another avalanche killed 16 Nepali guides on the infamous Khumbu icefall, forcing organisers to cancel expeditions.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Agreement in principle reached over Suez Canal ship | Business and Economy News

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Ever Given container ship has been anchored since it was dislodged on March 29 after blocking the crucial waterway.

A representative for the owners and insurers of a giant cargo ship that blocked the Suez Canal in March said on Wednesday an agreement in principle was reached in a compensation dispute with the canal authority.

Work was under way to finalise a signed settlement agreement as soon as possible and arrangements for the release of the Ever Given vessel would be made after formalities had been dealt with, Faz Peermohamed of Stann Marine said in a statement.

The Ever Given container ship has been anchored in a lake between two stretches of the canal since it was dislodged on March 29. It had been grounded across the canal for six days, blocking hundreds of ships and disrupting global trade.

The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) demanded $916m in compensation to cover salvage efforts, reputational damage and lost revenue before publicly lowering the request to $550m.

The Ever Given’s Japanese owners, Shoei Kisen, and its insurers have disputed the claim and the ship’s detention under an Egyptian court order.

SCA lawyer Khaled Abu Bakr on Sunday told a court hearing over the ship’s detention that the vessel’s owners had presented a new compensation offer and negotiations were continuing.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Bahrain says it invited Qatar twice for bilateral talks | GCC News

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Bahrain foreign ministry says invitations sent ‘in an attempt to move forward in strengthening the process of joint Gulf cooperation’.

Bahrain’s foreign ministry said it has sent two invitations to Qatar asking for its neighbouring Gulf state to send a delegation for bilateral talks in order to “settle outstanding issues”.

Quoting the Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, the foreign ministry on Tuesday “affirmed that the Kingdom of Bahrain hopes that the State of Qatar will take into account in its foreign policy the unity of the Gulf”.

According to the press release, Bahrain sent the invitations “in an attempt to move forward in strengthening the process of joint Gulf cooperation”.

“The Minister further highlighted that unity among the member states of the GCC is a popular demand for all its people, which was stipulated in the Al-Ula summit statement.”

In February, Bahrain said it had sent an initial invitation to Qatar the previous month but there had been no response.

According to a report by Doha News, Qatar delayed its response because the invite was carried through a “media announcement”, GCC Secretary-General Nayef Falah Mubarak al-Hajraf had told Bahraini foreign minister al-Zayani.

 

Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, broke off diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017 over claims it was too close to Iran and backed hardline groups, allegations Qatar has always firmly denied.

But earlier this year, the blockading countries agreed to restore ties in a summit hosted by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the desert city of al-Ula, following a flurry of diplomatic activity by the administration of former US President Donald Trump.

Qatar, which is hosting the football World Cup next year, emerged from the regional spat largely unscathed and resolute in the face of the assault.

It rejected the quartet’s demands, which included that it shut down the Al Jazeera Media Network and expel a small contingency of Turkish troops from its territory.

Since then, Riyadh and Cairo have acted to rebuild ties with Doha and all but Bahrain have restored trade and travel links with Doha.

A month prior to the signing of the al-Ula declaration, Qatar reported airspace violations by four Bahraini fighter jets to the United Nations Security Council and the secretary-general of the United Nations.

The letter expressed Qatar’s strong condemnation of actions which it perceived as a violation of its sovereignty and regional security, adding that these violations were blatantly inconsistent with Bahrain’s obligations under international law.





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Climate colonialism and the EU’s Green Deal | Climate Change

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Since the beginning of the year, the Amazon Rainforest, our largest tropical forest full of ecosystems essential to global climate regulation networks, has had 430,000 acres (174,000 hectares) cleared and burned to supply the logging industry and clear land for livestock breeding. Between August 2019 and July 2020, another 2.7 million acres (1.1 million hectares) were destroyed. Much of the wood and meat produced in Brazil from this deforestation ends up in Global North markets.

In Southeast Asia, deforestation linked to the palm oil industry also continues. Between 2018 and 2020, almost 500,000 acres (202,000 hectares) of rainforest were cleared in just three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, leading to Indigenous communities losing their land. The demand for palm oil from top food brands in the Global North remains high, despite their commitments to reduce use.

Meanwhile, the push for greener sources of energy, particularly in the Global North, is driving the demand for metals like nickel, cobalt and lithium. Labourers in mining communities working to extract these metals face dangerous and degrading working conditions.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the use of child labour in cobalt mines is widespread, putting the lives of children at risk, damaging their health and depriving them of education. In Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, lithium mining uses large quantities of water, accelerating desertification and polluting underground waters and rivers, putting the health of local communities at risk.

According to data gathered by London-based NGO Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, there have been 304 complaints of human rights violations by 115 companies mining these minerals.

Although the end of colonialism was declared decades ago, its last effects in the form of these extractive industries are clear. The system of Indigenous land takeovers, resource extraction, labour exploitation and wealth transfer set up by European colonialists continues to operate and dispossess people in the Global South.

It is against the backdrop of this neo-colonial reality that the European Union announced its Green Deal at the end of 2019.

Underpinned by an apolitical narrative that humans have already changed the Earth’s climate and degraded the majority of its ecosystems, so action needs to be taken, the Green Deal completely ignores the fact that the Global North was the main driver of climate change and environmental degradation across the world.

European governments and corporations not only damaged and destroyed the environment on the continent and exploited local marginalised communities, but have been engaged in the same exact behaviour and worse, on all other continents.

The natural world in Africa, Asia and Latin America has been destroyed through the capitalist economic systems deployed by the Global North which normalised, expanded and strengthened hyper-extraction through overproduction and over-consumption.

The European Green Deal does not outline how it will reconcile and repair the losses and damages EU countries have caused to ecosystems and communities outside of Europe. Nor does it acknowledge how these damages force people in the Global South to migrate to Europe’s shores, where they experience pushbacks, must less offer a solution.

The European Green Deal also ignores the environmental impact of Europe’s drive for renewable energy and electric mobility on other parts of the world, where resources for this economic shift will have to be extracted. It also does not pay attention to how climate change and environmental degradation have disproportionately affected its own marginalised communities and the poor and destitute in the Global South.

In other words, in the pursuit of making the EU the first climate-neutral region in the world by 2050, Brussels is falling back on its old ways and deploying what we call climate colonialism.

The EU’s apolitical narrative on climate change – ignoring the impact of colonialism and capitalism and heavily influenced by the very corporations who profit from them – could result in climate action that is not only non-impactful but, worse, could be unsustainable and damaging for marginalised communities on the continent as well as the Global South.

It relies on tech solutions and silver-bullet ideas, promising to lead a “green, sustainable” economy with electric vehicles, solar panels, wind turbines and other exciting renewable innovations.

But the question is, who will this be sustainable for?

In order not to fall into climate colonialism, the European Green Deal needs a clear plan to eradicate harmful extractive models, recognise its historical responsibility in the climate crisis, and provide accountability for the damage EU companies cause in the Global South.

Working within the same system that causes injustice will only reproduce injustice. We at Equinox have put forward a number of important recommendations that could help steer the Green Deal away from its capitalistic, colonial foundation and towards new holistic, intersectional approaches that put social and racial justice at its core.

Among these recommendations are a clear commitment to racial justice, integrated policies linking the EU’s Anti-Racist Action Plan to the Green Deal, institutional reform, and a new relationship with civil society.

Only by acknowledging that it is perpetuating colonial capitalism, and committing to ending this approach, can the EU’s Green Deal be truly effective in addressing climate change. For far too long, European governments and companies have wreaked havoc across the world. It is time for justice, accountability and a complete overhaul of economic systems. Our collective survival depends on it.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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