Cabinet gives approval to announce new height of Mt Everest, join India’s air bubble schemeExpectations are high that the height will be announced during China’s State Councilor and Defence Minister Wei Fenghe’s day-long visit in Kathmandu on November 29.
The Cabinet meeting on Wednesday gave in-principle approval for the Ministry of Land Management to announce the new height of Mt Everest, which the ministry said would be announced within a few days. The meeting also approved the Tourism Ministry’s proposal to sign an “air bubble” scheme with India that will facilitate the movement of citizens of both countries through a special arrangement.
Minister for Land Management Padma Kumari Aryal had tabled the direct proposal of announcing the new height of the world’s highest peak before the Cabinet.
According to two Cabinet ministers, whom the Post spoke to, the height of Everest has not even been revealed at the Cabinet meeting.
“After the Cabinet’s nod, we will organise a programme to officially announce the height of Mt Everest,” Aryal told the Post.
It has been speculated that the height would be announced during China’s State Councilor and Defence Minister Wei Fenghe’s day-long visit to Kathmandu on November 29. Aryal, however, said they have made ae a separate arrangementarrangement.
Nepali and Chinese officials have reached a consensus on announcing the official height of Everest, which straddles the two countries. While Nepal started measuring the height of the mountain in 2017, China did so last year after the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Nepal.
During the visit, both sides had agreed to jointly announce the height of the mountain.
The consensus not only paves the way for the two countries to announce the “new height” of Everest, but also brings to an end a 15-year-old disagreement on whether to recognise the “snow height” or the “rock height” of the mountain as its official height.
Nepal, which is home to eight of the 14 highest mountains in the world over 8,000m, has never measured the height of Everest on its own and has been officially using the peak’s snow height of 8,848 metres (29,029 feet), which was measured by the Survey of India in 1954.
Following the devastating earthquake in April 2015, the height of Everest has become the subject of interest not only for Everest expeditioners, scientists and researchers, but also for the whole world. Some geologists speculate that the height of Everest could have changed due to the 2015 earthquake, with a possible shift in its position.
In 2005, the Chinese State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping re-measured the peak and declared 8,844.43 meters as the Everest rock-height. Chinese and Nepali officials disagreed over the height of the iconic peak.
In 2011, the government of Nepal wanted to clear the air by re-measuring the height, but it failed due to various factors including political instability and lack of funds. The government has since declared the plan to measure the mountain’s height as a “national pride” project.
Wednesday’s meeting also decided to approve the Tourism Ministry’s proposal to sign the air bubble agreement with India.
“The Cabinet is positive about establishing air connectivity with the southern neighbour. Hence the Tourism Ministry will do the necessary homework before signing the agreement,” a minister told the Post.
Although India continues to restrict regular international passenger flights, it allows flights through “air bubbles” or “travel corridors”, a system established between two countries that perceive each other to be safe and allow carriers of both the countries to fly their citizens either way without any restrictions on the number of passengers.
According to Indian media reports, Nepal could be the new entrant to the list of countries with which India has an air bubble agreement in South Asia. India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said that the government was "exploring the possibility of an air bubble arrangement with Nepal".
India has an air bubble agreement with 22 countries globally. In South Asia, India has the agreement with Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and the Maldives.
According to officials, hundreds of Nepalis working, studying and those gone for medical treatment in India could benefit from the scheme. Restricting the roughly one-hour flights between the two capitals has affected hundreds of thousands of citizens from both countries, as they have to face several hassles to travel overland in case of emergency.