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Mt Everest gets even higher; China and Nepal announce revised height

Surveyors from Nepal had measured the peak back in 2019, with Chinese surveyors also scaling the mountain in 2020. The unanimous agreement on the current figure was based on these readings. 

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | December 8, 2020 | Updated 19:25 IST
Mt Everest gets even higher; China and Nepal announce revised height

Mt. Everest, the highest mountain above sea level on Earth, has seen a revision in its height, which makes it even higher than before. The joint announcement by China and Nepal, who had previously disagreed on the actual height of the peak, came on Tuesday. Interestingly, both nations agreed on one point in that they had pegged the height of Mt. Everest to be higher than the past recorded measurements.

According to the new figures, the tip of the world's tallest peak is now 29,031.7 feet above sea level. This new official figure is slightly higher than Nepal's previous measurement, and about 13 feet higher than China's.

Foreign ministers of China and Nepal - Wang Yi and Pradeep Gyawali, respectively - had simultaneously pressed buttons during a virtual conference, post which the new measurement was displayed on the screens.

Surveyors from Nepal had measured the peak back in 2019, with Chinese surveyors also scaling the mountain in 2020. The unanimous agreement on the current figure was based on these readings.  

After a major earthquake hit Nepal in 2015, there had been debates regarding the height of the mountain. The natural calamity that had destroyed about a million structures in Nepal and caused 9,000 fatalities, was also believed to have shrunk Mt. Everest owing to an avalanche on the mountain, which also took 19 lives.

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There was no doubt that Everest would remain the highest peak because the second-highest, Mount K2, is "only" 28,244 feet high. Mt Everest's height was first determined by a team of British surveyors around 1856 as 29,002 feet. The most accepted figure however, has been 29,028 feet, which was determined by the Survey of India conducted in 1954. The second-highest peak in the world - Mount K2 - measures up at 28,244 feet, making Everest unambiguously the highest peak on the planet.

In May 2019, a team of Nepalese government surveyors had scaled Mt Everest and installed GPS and satellite equipment to measure the peak, as well as the snow depth on the summit. Chinese President Xi Jinping too, visited Nepal later that year, and the leaders of the two countries decided to come up with a joint-figure for the peak.

While all expeditions were cancelled from China's side of the mountain owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey team from China conducted measurements in the spring of 2020.

"This is a milestone in mountaineering history which will finally end the debate over the height, and now the world will have one number," said Santa Bir Lama, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, welcoming the end of confusion over the mountain's height.

China's Xinhua New Agency quoted President Xi as saying that the two countries were also committed to jointly protecting the natural environment around Everest, while also furthering and cooperating in scientific research.

For China, the announcement also seemed to have shades of political value apart from just a geographical issue. With this development, China has drawn Nepal closer with respect to foreign relations, having invested in the latter's economy; building highways, dams, airports among other infrastructure.

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