China standoff stalls Indo-Nepal plan to remeasure Everest height

14th Aug, 2017 | Tourism Mail Crew

KATHMANDU, August 14: A strip of land on India-China-Bhutan tri-junction border in Himalayas seems to be holding up a mission to recalculate height of the world's highest peak.

An ambitious project initiated by Survey of India is believed to be delayed due to a standoff between India and China at Doklam, contiguous with Sikkim.

Survey of India by joining hands with Nepalese authorities wanted to re-measure Everest to assuage doubts expressed by international scientific community that the massive earthquake of April 25, 2015, could've altered the peak's height. Survey of India (SoI) had sent a proposal through Ministry of External Affairs to Nepal. The Everest expedition was also to commemorate the Survey of India's 250th anniversary.

The current official height of Everest — 8848m was established by SoI in 1955, which was recognised by Nepal.

Now, three months since the proposal was sent, SoI is still awaiting a nod from the Nepalese side on its plan. It was supposed to be a joint effort by India and Nepal.

A proposal was sent to Nepal through MEA, but we have not received any communication yet. There has been no progress in the mission," Major GeneralVP Srivastava, Surveyor General of India, said.

Srivastava's predecessor, Swarna Subba Rao, under whom the proposal was made, said Nepal was taking time to respond given the tense situation. "Nepal would have its concerns. It would refrain from being seen as aligning with India on any project at this juncture when tensions are flaring up between the two giants," Rao, who supe rannuated on June 30, said.

Maj Gen Srivastava, who is also additional DG, Military Survey, too echoed this view. "As we have no official communication, I cannot authoritatively comment on Kathmandu's silence on giving consent. But the present situation on the border leads one to guess that Nepal is wary and watchful."

Experts said, relations between India and Nepal have strained over last few years and China is utilising the opportunity to gain influence in the Himalayan nation. Survey of India feels re-measuring Everest is a matter of honour. Results of probe were to assist geologists in assessment of tectonic plate movements and quake predictions.

"The project estimated to cost Rs 5 crore will be funded by department of science and technology and planned to have a team of 30, including some Sherpas. There would be surveyors from Nepal too," said SoI official.

"China is engaged in psychological, cartographic wars with neighbours and could even be showing interest in Nepal-Tibet-China border, where Everest lies," says Prof Phunchok Stobdan, diplomat and foreign policy expert.

An MEA official confirmed the proposal was "still under consideration of the Nepalese authorities".