Feb. 15, 2019 -- Authorities in China's Tibet Autonomous Region have denied the "permanent closure" of Mount Qomolangma National Nature Reserve.
The announcement came after a report went viral online claiming the base camp of the world's highest mountain was "permanently closed due to heavy pollution."
Mount Qomolangma National Nature Reserve was set up in 1988. Covering an area of more than 33,800 square km, it is home to one of the world's most vulnerable ecosystems.
Kelsang, deputy director with the reserve's administration, said ordinary tourists are allowed to visit areas around Rongpo Monastery, almost 5,000 meters above sea level.
As for travelers who have a climbing permit, they can go to the base camp at an altitude of 5,200 meters. The mountaineering activities have been approved by the regional forestry department.
To conserve the environment surrounding Mount Qomolangma, China carried out three major clean-ups at an altitude of 5,200 meters and above last spring, collecting eight tonnes of household waste, human feces and mountaineering trash.
This year, the clean-up will continue, and the remains of mountaineering victims above 8,000 meters will be centrally dealt with for the first time.
Meanwhile, the number of people who stay at the base camp will be kept under 300.
Currently, there are 85 wildlife protectors in the reserve, and 1,000 herders have part-time jobs patrolling and cleaning up garbage.
"These measures aim to strike a balance between various demands such as environmental protection, local poverty relief, mountaineering and education," said Wang Shen, county chief of Dingri at the mountain foot.