A giant Kuwaiti flag was unfurled from the summit of Mt Ama Dablam on November 12 with help from mountaineer Nirmal Purja. Photo Courtesy: marco_berti_ve
KATHMANDU, Nov 27: Famed mountaineer Nirmal Purja Magar took around US$ 9,000 from a Kuwaiti expedition to acquire permission from the government to unfurl a giant Kuwaiti flag from atop Mt Ama Dablam and for filming, it is learnt.
Documents obtained by Republica show that Purja’s climbing expedition company, Elite Himalayan Adventures, received $8,890 from the Kuwaiti expedition for an ‘expedition filming permit’ and for unfurling the flag from the mountain top. But Purja did not pay the money to the government, nor did he seek any permission from the Department of Tourism, the authority responsible for regulating such activities.
Ama Dablam, one of the most spectacular of mountains, grabbed international attention earlier this month after images of the Kuwaiti flag unfurled at its summit went viral on social media.
Following a public outcry and much negative press, the tourism department launched an internal investigation. If found guilty, Purja and the mountaineers concerned could be banned from climbing in Nepal.
Purja initially said the Kuwaiti flag was unfurled to celebrate Kuwait-Nepal friendship. The flag was later brought back from the mountain. Purja eventually admitted during questioning at the department that the mandatory permission was not sought.
Multiple sources claim that Purja had taken the money with an agreement to return the flag to
Kuwait after its unfurling atop Ama Dablam. The Kuwaitis hoped to put it on public display to mark the Gulf country’s national day. But the flag was seized by the tourism authorities.
Purja had guided the Kuwaiti team on Mt Ama Dablam shortly after he set a world record for the fastest climb of 14 eight-thousanders.
A Kuwaiti team member said they paid $8,890 just to seek permission for placing the giant flag atop Ama Dablam and for filming. A total of $224,468.67 was paid to Purja’s climbing company for the entire expedition, according to the invoice obtained by Republica.
The Kuwaiti flag unfurling got posted on social media and it became controversial after it came to light that the expedition had no permission for the flag project.
The Kuwaiti flag could be seen from as far away as Khumjung, 3,000 meters below and 12 km away.
Concerned over the social media response, the department grilled Purja over his involvement and for not ‘ seeking prior permission ‘. The flag is still with the department as matters are under investigation.
Kuwait wants to take its summit flag back as a matter of national pride.
Nepal allows climbers from any country to take their flags up the mountains but they are required to take prior permission.
The Kuwaiti expedition now finds itself in an awkward position.