Mount Everest emerges as pandemic lifts veil of smog from Kathmandu Valley
For the first time in decades, photographer Abhushan Gautam was able to get a clear shot of Mount Everest
With air pollution levels down during the pandemic, Kathmandu photographer Abhushan Gautam captured a sight that has been shrouded in the city's smog for nearly 50 years — a clear view of Mount Everest.
Gautam and his neighbours in Kathmandu Valley live on the doorstep of the famous mountain range. But until now, it was extremely rare to catch a glimpse of Mount Everest and its sister peaks.
"This photo is symbolic," Gautam told As It Happens host Carol Off. "If we do our actions right, then things can be mended, and we can actually see Everest from our own backyard."
Gautam says the mountain is occasionally visible from the outer city limits when the weather is clear. But it hasn't been documented in Kathmandu Valley for decades.
"We hear from people of older generations that it was visible during their times, maybe 30 [or] 40 years back. But there's no document of that. So it's a very rare sighting from [the] valley itself," Gautam said.
Gautam estimates he was about 160 kilometres from the mountain when he snapped the shots. He says that his friend messaged him and suggested he take some photographs because the weather was clear.
He walked up a small hilltop only a few minutes from his home to take a panoramic photo, unaware of what he was about to capture.
"Quite frankly, even I, myself, was very much surprised after I took the photo because I had no intention of capturing Everest in that picture," Gautam said.
"Only after I took the picture and zoomed in a bit into the photo, I realized that it was shaped like Everest. And then, after that, I had to confirm it via Twitter."
After he confirmed the photo, he still couldn't believe his luck.
"That came as a shock," Gautam said.
"Everest sighting is very rare. So that was something new for me and that was something new for other people also because they haven't heard of it or they haven't seen it before."
Gautam says the contrast is startling between the photograph and other images he took before the pandemic lockdown.
"Kathmandu Valley is shaped like a cup, so whatever pollution there is, it gets stuck," Gautam said.
"Thanks to the lockdown weather, and thanks to the rains that happen in between, everything is clear and the number of incidents of health problems has also drastically gone down."
Gautam also points out that this is peak climbing season and usually the city would be busy with tourists.
"There has been so much traffic that you can even see, you know, photos on the internet about having traffic jams on the Everest mountain," Gautam said.
While acknowledging how much the tourism industry has suffered over the last few months, Gautam hopes the photographs bring joy to his community and remind them of the nature around them.
"Having taken that sort of luxury of seeing Everest away due to the own doings of people and due to the pollution and everything we've done to the nature — it's quite saddening to see that," Gautam said.
"Nature is replying back about how it should be left alone sometimes. You know?"
Written by John McGill. Interview produced by Chris Harbord.