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May 9, 2024

India Collaborates with Like-Minded Nations to Regulate Tourism in Antarctica: Ensuring Sustainable Exploration of the White Continent

India, along with like-minded countries, is actively pursuing the regulation of tourism in Antarctica to safeguard the delicate ecology of the White Continent. The increasing number of tourists poses a threat to its fragile environment, prompting discussions on regulation during the upcoming Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) and Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) meeting in Kerala’s Kochi from May 20 to May 30.

M. Ravichandran, Secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences, highlighted the urgency of regulating Antarctic tourism, citing its current lack of oversight. The Ministry of Earth Sciences is hosting the 46th ATCM and the 26th CEP meeting, where the agenda will include discussions on regulating tourism. Ravichandran also hinted at plans to facilitate visits to Indian research stations in Antarctica for the general public, emphasizing the importance of accessibility.

India, alongside other nations, is committed to promoting regulated tourism in Antarctica. Ravichandran stressed that India advocates for responsible tourism and is encouraging like-minded countries to join in this effort. He mentioned the necessity of setting criteria for tourists visiting Antarctica, which will be discussed and recommended by the ATCM’s working group.

Antarctic travel costs approximately Rs 1 crore per person for researchers, with travel from Goa to Cape Town and then to Antarctica. India operates two active research stations in Antarctica—Maitri and Bharati—where scientists conduct research year-round. Maintaining these research bases costs the government between Rs 150 and Rs 200 crore annually.

Ravichandran emphasized India’s meticulous maintenance of its research stations, subjecting them to regular inspections to ensure pristine conditions. Strict waste management protocols are in place, including transporting all waste, including human waste, back to the mainland.

Tourism in Antarctica has seen a steady increase over the years. For the 2022-23 season, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) reported 32,730 cruise-only visitors, 71,346 landed visitors, and 821 deep-field visitors. This growth underscores the urgency of regulating tourism to protect Antarctica’s environment.

Tourism in Antarctica dates back to the 1950s, with tourists initially hitching rides on supply ships. Today, thousands of visitors transit through Argentina or Chile annually to visit the continent. With the increasing popularity of Antarctic tourism, it’s imperative to implement measures that ensure sustainable exploration while preserving its unique ecosystem.

In conclusion, India’s collaboration with like-minded nations to regulate tourism in Antarctica marks a significant step towards preserving the White Continent’s pristine environment. Through careful regulation and responsible management, countries aim to ensure that future generations can continue to explore and study this extraordinary region without causing harm to its delicate ecosystem.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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