“It was a dreadful day, we had not seen sun for over 24 hours now. I was of two minds – for a second, I would think of returning and the very next second, I would buck myself up to take a leap of faith. It was, indeed, the most defining moment of my life as it reassured me of my strength.” narrates Javeria Awan about her experience of battling unfavourable circumstances during the K-2 Clean-up Expedition 2017.
K-2 – the second highest peak in the world – is ascended over by a hundred mountaineers each year. Being a host to many mountaineering endeavors, K-2 faces a major a menace – environmental pollution. Since, the environmental pollution is increasing day by day, there is a growing need to provide necessary awareness campaigns to instill a sense of responsibility among the mountaineers to preserve the beauty and cleanliness of this majestic landmark.
As a result, ‘K-2 Clean-up Expedition’ was launched by Shamshad Hussain – Community College Initiative Program alumnus – last year with the support of the U.S. Mission in Pakistan. Over the years, Shamshad has actively been involved in organizing various activities to educate, and draw locals and authorities’ attention to promote eco-tourism.
Meet the team who had the ambitious mission to ‘clean-up K-2 basecamp’
This year, K-2 Clean-up Expedition 2017, united thirty alumni of the U.S. government funded exchange programs from China, Pakistan and Tajikistan for ‘operation K-2 clean-up’. The project, supported by the U.S. Mission in Pakistan through PUAN Alumni Small Grant, was made possible in collaboration with GRACE Association Pakistan.
International participant and IVLP alumna from Tajikistan, Miskola Abdulloeva, speaks of her experience of witnessing the pollution at the K-2 basecamp;
“I could see how garbage was already deep in the ice and glacier which terrified me. I never thought that there could be so much garbage, we all wanted to take all the solid waste from the camp, but we all knew that it would take months. We have to take care of nature, we should be the ‘pioneers’. We need to keep not only our region, but the whole planet clean.”
The group of 70 members, including 30 alumni and 40 porters, trekked as high as 4,400 meters to reach Concordia (K-2 basecamp) for the clean-up drive. The two-week expedition involved trekking in harsh temperatures that sometimes plunged to minus 15 degree Celsius; camping in the cradle of snow-capped Karakorum range; collecting 1,750 kilograms of solid waste scattered across the 100-kilometer-long route; and carrying it back to Askoli (a local village). The waste material included cans, paper, plastic, and animal carcasses. The waste was disposed of in an eco-friendly manner at a dumpsite of the Central Karakorum Natural Park (CKNP).
One of the participants and English Access Microscholarship Program alumnus, Waqas Satti spoke of the initiative;
“Everyone likes to talk about waste in the cities but no one talks about the waste in the mountains, and about proper solutions to remove it. Cleaning-up the basecamp was incomplete without proper eco-friendly waste management.”
Networking Reception: Sharing Experiences
A special welcome and networking reception was hosted for the team at the U.S. Embassy Islamabad which provided the national and international alumni a platform to not only share their experience but also to meet with the senior officials of the U.S. Embassy Islamabad. Joining the reception, Kathryn Crockart (Minister Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad) and John Hoover (Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad) applauded the efforts of the alumni in promoting eco-tourism and learned about their journey of cleaning up the K-2 basecamp.
Speaking at the reception, Shamshad Hussain excitedly expressed;
“With this achievement, I aim to raise awareness among the locals and foreigners to keep the environment clean, and to also inspire youth to take part in adventure sports activities.”
Click here to check out pictures from the networking reception.
The clean-up drive has not only played a role in instilling a sense of ownership amongst the people of the region but has also pressed for adopting systematic and sustainable mechanism to collect waste from the area and dispose it off. From this project, it is clear that engaging in environment-friendly activities is possible for the people of the world – be it for the cleanliness of the K-2 basecamp or cleanliness of your own neighborhood.
This event was made possible with the help of an alumni small grant from the Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN). All alumni of various U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs in Pakistan are eligible to apply for the grant of up to 10,000 USD to enable them to give back to their communities.