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Nepal cabinet holds meeting on Mount Everest

Nepal cabinet meeting on Mount Everest
The 21 ministers travelled by helicopter to close to Everest base camp

Nepalese ministers have held the world's highest cabinet meeting on Mount Everest, to raise awareness of the effects of climate change.

The ministers signed a declaration on climate change during the meeting, which comes before the Copenhagen climate summit starts next week.

PM Madhav Kumar Nepal told the BBC the Himalayas were "a global treasure" that needed to be protected.

Studies show temperatures rising faster there than in the rest of South Asia.

The studies show the rise has led to a reduced snowfall over the mountains and has caused glaciers to melt.

For us, nature is God. But we are not treating our God fairly and that is why we are facing problems
Nawang Tenge, monk

The entire cabinet of 21 ministers travelled in a fleet of helicopters to Kalipatar - a plateau at 5,200m (17,000ft) next to Everest's base camp.

Medical equipment, oxygen canisters, soldiers and journalists had already been ferried to the site.

During their half-hour meeting, the ministers - some wearing oxygen masks to help them breathe in the thin air - endorsed a resolution on climate change, which they called the Sagarmatha Declaration (or Everest Declaration in Nepali).

"We wanted to stress one point: that the Himalayas are a global treasure," Mr Nepal told the BBC.

AT THE SCENE
Joanna Jolly
Joanna Jolly, BBC News, Syangboche

The ministers sat outside at a specially provided table - complete with table cloth - with a view of Mount Everest behind them.

Some wore oxygen masks which had been provided as a precaution against altitude sickness.

There is growing concern in Nepal about rising temperatures in the Himalayan region that have led to decreased snow fall and glacier melt.

The prime minister said he hoped this cabinet meeting would help focus the world's attention on climate change in the Himalayas ahead of the Copenhagen summit next week.

"They are the water towers of Asia, feeding its largest rivers and nourishing hundreds of millions of people downstream."

Crowds of local people, many of them wearing traditional outfits, gathered at the village of Syangboche, from where the ministerial helicopters took off.

Nawang Tenge, a Buddhist monk waiting to greet the minsters on their return, said the meeting gave him hope for the development of the region.

"For us, nature is God. But we are not treating our God fairly and that is why we are facing problems," he told the AFP news agency.

"Last year, there was no rain or snow here and the temperatures go up with every passing year."

Mingma, a 47-year-old inn keeper, said he was glad the government was "taking initiatives before it is too late".

"Usually authorities tend to act only after accidents. We are now hopeful that something might be done," he told the AP news agency.

'Critical'

Mr Nepal said the mountain range played "an important role in global atmospheric circulation and a centre for unique biodiversity".

"The lofty peaks and mighty rivers have inspired civilisations and supported a mosaic of cultural diversity and because of that we need to preserve Mount Everest, the mountains and all those places downstream," he said.

The trip was funded by a group of Nepalese private organisations, many of them from the tourist sector.

Environment Minister Thakur Prasad Sharma shrugged off criticism that the meeting was just a costly publicity stunt.

"The fact is that the glaciers are melting due to global warming. That has become a critical issue and we want to draw global attention to it," Mr Sharma told AFP.

Mount Everest is the highest point on earth, with a summit 29,035 ft (8,850 m) above sea level.

The cabinet meeting comes after the government of the Maldives - the world's lowest-lying country - held an underwater cabinet meeting in October to highlight the threat to their territory from rising sea levels.



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Nepal cabinet to meet on Everest
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Himalayan glacier studies commence
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Country profile: Nepal
04 Feb 11 |  Country profiles


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