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Environmental campaigners and lawyers are today calling on UNESCO to place Everest National Park (Sagarmatha National Park) on the World Heritage Danger List because of climate change, so that the legal duty to protect the area is respected. They warn that unless urgent action is taken, many Himalayan lakes could burst, threatening the lives of thousands of people and destroying a unique and irreplaceable environment.

Pro Public (Friends of the Earth Nepal) and record-breaking Nepalese climbers, will deliver their petition by hand to the World Heritage Committee in Paris tomorrow (Thursday 18 Nov) at 9.30am. Petitioners include Sir David Attenborough, Sir Chris Bonington, Reinhold Messner and Stephen Venables.

The melting of Himalayan glaciers as a result of climate change has swollen the Himalayan lakes, increasing the risk of catastrophic flooding. There is wide agreement that many lakes are at risk, but a lack of adequate monitoring means that there is no realistic assessment of how close they are to bursting. Putting Everest National Park on the Danger List would mean UNESCO would have to assess Nepal's glacial lakes and stabilise those most at risk.

Campaigners will also submit petitions calling for coral reefs in Belize and glaciers in Peru to be added to the Danger List as a result of climate change. The climate change problems faced by Nepal, Belize and Peru are not of their own making, but are the result of gas emissions from industrialised countries - such as the UK.

The World Heritage Committee should press Governments around the world to reduce their countries' greenhouse gas emissions to ensure that the world's most spectacular places remain for future generations.

Prakash Sharma, Director of Pro Public (Friends of the Earth Nepal) said: `Mount Everest is a powerful symbol of the natural world, not just in Nepal. If this mountain is threatened by climate change, then we know the situation is deadly serious. If we fail to act, we are failing future generations and denying them the chance to enjoy the beauty of mother earth.'

Temba Tsheri Sherpa, who in 2001 aged 16 was the youngest to climb Everest, said: `Everest is the pride of the nation, but more than this, it is a gift to the world. Lake Tsho-Ipa has formed near the area where I come from. Local people live in fear that the lake will burst.'

Pemba Dorjee Sherpa, the fastest ever climber of Everest, who has climbed the mountain four times said: `Last year when Edmund Hillary came to Everest, he told me that so much snow had melted in the fifty years since he first climbed Everest. In 1953 snow and ice had reached all the way to base camp, but now it ends five miles above. Everest is losing its natural beauty. If this continues, then tourists won't come any more. Our communities rely on tourism. It's my livelihood, as a tour guide and climber, and if we lose this, there will be nothing for our children.'

Peter Roderick, Director of the Climate Justice Programme said: `Glaciers and coral reefs are the canaries in the coal mine. The World Heritage Committee must urgently investigate these sites and ensure that everything necessary is done to maintain their world heritage status, to keep people safe and to pass them on intact to future generations. Legal duties require this action, including the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and these duties must be respected both within the UNESCO and Kyoto processes.'

Catherine Pearce, Friends of the Earth's International Climate spokesperson said: `The UK is a member of the World Heritage Committee, so we hope that they will support this petition when they next meet in June 2005. This will be the first time the World Heritage Committee has been asked to danger list a site due to climate change. We hope that UNESCO will demand that states take action on climate change, which is the root cause of these problems.'

Sir Chris Bonington, one of the petitioners, said: `Sagarmatha National Park not only has the highest mountain in the World - it also has some of its finest mountain scenery. It is also a place where its inhabitants, the Sherpas, live and work. Both the beauty of this magnificent area and the livelihoods of its inhabitants are threatened by global warming.'


Petitioners from Nepal will take 13.41 Eurostar to Paris. They will deliver the petition by hand to the World Heritage Centre at the UNESCO HQ in Paris (7, Place Fontenoy) on the morning of Thursday 18th.

If the World Heritage Committee agrees to put Everest National Park on the Danger list, then UNESCO can assess the lakes and prioritise work to stabilise those most at risk. This designation should also help UNESCO to demand action on climate change to ensure that some of the world's most spectacular places remain for future generations.

The World Heritage Committee is the statutory body responsible for decision-making on all matters related to the implementation of the World Heritage Convention. It meets once a year, in June. The petitioners wish to ask the Committee to consider their danger listing petitions at their next meeting in June 2005.

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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust