India, global community differ on tourism in Antarctica
Apr 30, 2007 - 5:42:24 PM
New Delhi, April 30 - Tourism in the icy Antarctica continent seems to have become a prickly issue with India, which is hosting the ongoing Antarctica Treaty Consultative Meeting - here, vehemently opposed to it as against the treaty members.
Noted space scientist and chairman of the 30th ATCM, U.R. Rao said though the Antarctica Treaty talks about free access for all, yet tourism does not fit in that definition.
'Tourism is a real nuisance. Human intervention in the form of tourism is affecting the ecosystem of the continent and it must stop,' Rao told IANS on the sideline of the ATCM, hosted by India for the first time.
'Tourists litter the pristine surface, the ships break the ice and there are so many other issues. You just cannot overlook the matter, especially as the intergovernmental panel on climate change - has pointed fingers towards human intervention as a major cause of global warming,' he said.
Minister for Science, Technology and Earth Sciences, Kapil Sibal said when the treaty was concluded in Dec 1, 1959, no one had thought of tourists going to Antarctica. 'But now it's a reality,' he said.
'The growth of tourism in the Antarctica needs to be looked at afresh, in the context of exploitation of the resources of this vast continent,' the minister added.
However, officials of the Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty - and International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators - hold a different view.
'There is neither any provision in the treaty that advocates a blanket ban on tourism nor is there any proposal. There is freedom of access and it remains like that,' said ATS executive secretary Johannes Huber.
'Those who visit the icy continent are environment friendly people and do not fiddle with its ecosystem,' Huber said.
Neil Gilbert, another ATS official, said there was 'no proposal to ban' any activities, including tourism, as they are not affecting the continent's ecology.
According to Huber, during 2006-07 over 30,000 tourists visited Antarctica of which nearly 35 percent were from the US. Britain and Germany are the other two countries from where a sizeable number of tourists come visiting.
Denise Landau, executive director IAATO, said: 'Why should tourism be banned. Concerned citizens of the world are visiting the continent and spreading awareness back home. They are not harming anyone, including the penguins there.'
She said tourists keep at least five meters away from the penguins. 'Moreover, all the 83 companies involved in taking tourists there have agreed on a formula of 100 tourists, one site and one ship, devised by us. There is a guide for every 25 tourists.'
Landau said though very few from India visit Antarctica yet the interest here is growing. 'There is no IAATO recognised in India. They book it through operators working in other countries,' she said. It costs around $7,000 each for a trip to the icy land, she added.
Nearly 300 delegates including scientists, policy makers, non-governmental agencies from over 45 countries are in New Delhi to participate in the 30th ATCM.
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