Nepal has decided to slash royalty fees by more than half for mountaineers intending to climb Mount Everest from 2015 onwards to attract more climbers amid environmental concerns about overcrowding at the world's highest peak.
Every year hundreds of climbers are lured to the 8,848-metre Everest during the climbing season, which stretches from March to May.
As per existing rules, Nepal charges USD 25,000 per climber as a royalty. But a group of seven people can secure a permit for USD 70,000, a practice that encourages climbers to form big groups.
According to the new rule being introduced by the tourism ministry from next year, each climber will have to pay USD 11,000 for the ascent.
"The change in royalty rates will discourage artificially formed large groups and will promote responsible and serious climbers," an official at the ministry said.
The new rates will apply for the peak season on the Southeast Col route pioneered by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953.
However, permits for other routes and during winter and summer, when the mountain is virtually deserted, will cost as little as USD 2,500 to encourage off-season climbing, according to officials.
Fees for hundreds of smaller peaks will also be changed from the coming season.
More than 4,000 people have so far successfully reached Everest's summit since the historic first ascent in 1953 while nearly 250 climbers have died on their way up.
Nepal earns USD 3.3 million annually from climbing fees. Tens of thousands more Nepalese hotel owners, trekking guides and porters depend on climbers for their livelihoods as Nepal has eight of the 14 highest mountains in the world.
But environmentalists are worried about the effects of increasing tourism on the mountain.
Garbage including food wrappers, climbing gear and oxygen cylinders, has littered the mountain in recent years, prompting some to label Everest as the "world's highest garbage dump".