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[KATHMANDU] Water quality in the rivers and water bodies around the Everest, the world's highest mountain, has begun to deteriorate as result of tourist treks and other human activity, says a new study.   
The findings of the study, published last month (August) in the online edition of the Journal of Water Resource and Protection, say that nitrate and phosphate content in the rivers of the Sagarmatha National Park — located on the southern slope of Mt Everest in the Solukhumbu district of the north-eastern region of Nepal — have shown significant increase. 
Although the water quality still conforms to WHO standards for drinking water in Nepal, a degradation process has begun, according to the study which examined samples taken from 17 locations in the vicinity of tourist trails along the Dudh Kosi, Bhote Kosi, Imja Khola and Lopuche rivers. 
The study spanning 2008—2010 examined nitrates, phosphates, pH value, total dissolved solids, conductivity and temperature of the water samples taken from elevations between 1,900—5,300 metres above sea level. 
"The pollution comes from different sources, but the major ones are human excreta, animal fertilisers, solid waste from households and lodges and chemicals from detergent soaps," explains Narayan Prasad Ghimire, researcher at Tribhuvan University (TU), Kathmandu, and lead author of the study.
According to the study, increased solid waste generation from high tourism flow, open defecation, use of chemical fertilisers and construction of garbage pits close to water courses are among root causes of water pollution.

The study, however, does not locate point sources for the increase in pollutants. "It would be very complicated to study the point source of these pollutants. A micro-level examination would be required, calling for a different research project," Ghimire tells SciDev.Net.
Measuring the six parameters during the peak tourist season in May, the study suggests, without scientific quantification, that increased tourist activity is a possible reason behind the increase in pollution.   
"Our focus was mainly on the ecological parameters rather than on quantifying the factors affecting the ecology," Pramod Kumar Jha, head of the botany department at TU and co-author of the study, tells SciDev.Net.
Eklabya Sharma, ecologist and director of programme operations at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Kathmandu, says the situation is manageable."Compared to the bigger river systems in Asia, pollution control in the area can be managed, but awareness of the phenomenon is important," Sharma says.  
Link to paper in Journal of Water Resource and Protection