China termed its joint efforts with Nepal to measure Mount Everest’s height as a new milestone for the burgeoning friendship between the two countries, with its official media saying it is a crucial step towards solving few remaining bilateral disputes.
The world’s highest peak is now taller by 86 centimetres, Nepal and China jointly announced on Tuesday after they remeasured Mt. Everest at 8,848.86 metres, over six decades after India conducted the previous measurement in 1954.
The revised height of Mt Everest puts an end to the decades-long dispute between the two neighbours on the height of the world’s tallest mountain that straddles their shared border.
The exact height of Mt Everest had been contested ever since a group of British surveyors in India declared the height of Peak XV, as it was initially called, to be 8,778 metres in 1847.
Mt Everest stands on the border between China and Nepal and mountaineers climb it from both the sides. Mt. Everest is known as Sagarmatha in Nepal while in China it is called Mt Qomolangma, the Tibetan name for the world’s highest peak.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that the “new height of Mt Qomolangma stands as a new milestone for China-Nepal friendship”.
“This year marks the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. With concerted efforts, BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) cooperation has steadily progressed and the vision of the trans-Himalayan multi-dimensional connectivity network sustained,” he said, in an apparent reference to plans by both the countries to lay road and rail networks through Tibet.
“The new height of Mt Qomolangma symbolises the new height of China-Nepal cooperation,” Zhao said. Everest is an “eternal symbol of … friendship between Nepal and China,” said Nepali Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, announcing the findings of their surveys on a video call with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Tuesday.
The joint survey is significant as China in 2018 differed with Nepal over the height of Mt Everest and stuck to its calculations that the peak of the world’s tallest mountain was four meters less than Kathmandu’s measurement.
The measurement was important as China and Nepal settled their border dispute in 1961 with the boundary line passing through the summit of Mt Everest.
The latest survey puts both the countries on the same page for the first time about its height as Beijing seeks to firm up its strategic ties with Nepal with huge investments in infrastructure projects, while enhancing its political influence over the Himalayan country.
The joint announcement of Qomolangma’s new height can be seen as a crucial step towards solving the only few remaining disputes between the two countries, the ruling Communist Party’s tabloid daily quoted observers as saying.
It said that Chinese scientists from the re-measurement team attributed the increase in height to having based the new calculation on “snow height” rather than the “rock height” which China previously used.
Moreover, the joint survey used global sea level as a benchmark, rather than the Yellow Sea standard adopted by China before, it said.
The operation to make the historic measurement saw many breakthroughs, said Li Guopeng, a team leader from China’s Ministry of Natural Resources, giving the example that it is the first time the gravity value of Mt Everest has been established.
The mountain plays a vital reference to research into tectonic plate movement, snowmelt and other environmental changes on the Qinghai-Tibet region, Sun Heping from the Innovation Academy for Precision Measurement Science and Technology from the Chinese Academy of Sciences told the Global Times.
5G communication technology was used with China Mobile and Chinese tech giant Huawei providing end-to-end solutions during the ascent, the daily’s report said.
In 2015, when the devastating 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, there was a huge avalanche on the south face of the mountain, the main reason the Nepalese side called for a re-measurement, it said.
The gap between the past calculations between the two countries was caused by the difference in measuring methods, with China calculating the “rock height” underneath the snow, while Nepal measured the “snow height” which includes the snow-cap.
Dang Yaming, the project leader of China’s re-measurement task, told the daily that the measurement differs from the previous ones because the data was processed by China and Nepal together.
He said that the two directly measured the height of the top of the snowpack, which is more accurate than measuring the rock base.
“The final result could be beneficial in enhancing the friendship of the two peoples,” Dang added.
Garrett Madison of the US-based Madison Mountaineering company said he was excited about climbing the “new heights” on Mt. Everest next year. “Surely some new records for climbing the ‘highest Everest” will happen in 2021,” the 42-year-old ten times Everest summiteer told Reuters in a text message. “Hopefully I get Everest summit #11 in 2021!”
Everest has been climbed 10,184 times by 5,789 people from both sides since it was first scaled by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953, according to the Himalayan Database, which maintains records on climbs. At least 311 people have died on its slopes, The Himalayan Times reported on Wednesday.
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