8th December, 2020 marks a historic event, ending a year long struggle and debate between Nepal and China. The two countries have finally recognised the height of Mt. Everest mutually, and declared that the world’s tallest peak is 8,848.86 meters tall. Nepalese Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi made the joint announcement by video conferencing from Kathmandu and Beijing, respectively.
Nepal had previously recognized the mountain as 8,848 meters tall- which was 86 centimetres shorter than now. Simultaneously, China had put its height at 8,848.13 meters. The process of measuring the new height started last year when the Chinese President Xi Jinping had visited Nepal on an official trip. The height of Mt. Everest was last calculated more than 165 years by an Indian Mathematician- through the years of surveys and calculations.
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“This is a special moment”, said Gyawali, adding that Nepal-China relations have strengthened in recent times.
The Deputy Director General of the Survey Department, Susheel Dangol, said that Nepal had so far been officially recognizing the mountain as 8,848 meters tall. “The new height is the snow height of the mountain, and not the rock height”, he added.
The new height is based on measurements, that was conducted by Nepali surveyors who reached the top of Mt. Everest last year, and another measurement conducted by a Chinese team this year.
There have been speculations in the Global Climbing community, that the height of the mountain’s might have increased in the year 2015- post the devastating effect of twin quakes that struck Nepal in 2015. As part of a national pride project, Nepal had decided to measure the height of the mountain in 2011. However, the actual substantial work was not started until 2015- after the quakes that took place.
“The disparity between China and Nepal with respect to the height of the mountains had been causing problems to climbers”- said Tshering Sherpa, honorary member of International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation. The uniformity of height will now encourage capable climbers to attempt the south side in Nepal, which is more difficult, and those who prefer an easier climb to try their luck on the north side in Tibet, Sherpa added.
Mount Everest is located in the collision and compression zone between the edges of the Indian plate and the Eurasian plate, where crustal movement is very active. “Accurately measuring the height of Mount Everest is helpful to the study of the elevation changes of the Himalayas and Qinghai-Tibet Plateau”, said Gao Dengyi, an atmospheric physicist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
This is considered has a huge achievement for Nepal, for this is the first time it measured the height of the mountain. Till now, it had been recognizing the official height of the mountains as 8,848 meters- which was recognized as the official height by India in 1954. “This is the official height of the mountain now. It does not need approval from any international body”, said Janak Raj Joshi, spokesman at the Ministry of Land Management.