India’s stand has been vindicated as the historic two-week long Thirtieth Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) has decided to regulate the growing tourist traffic to Antarctica.
Inaugurating the Thirtieth Antarctic Treaty Consultative Committee Meeting in New Delhi Earth Sciences Minister Kapil Sibal had hoped that a consensus will emerge during the meeting on curbing tourism and other human activity in the continent.
ATCM is the highest administrative forum for governing the Antarctica under the unique Antarctic Treaty of 1959 where critical issues concerning Antarctica are discussed and management decisions are taken by consensus.
Sibal talking to the media on Saturday said the ATCM adopted a Resolution for regulation of ship based tourism in the Antarctic waters. It also decided to address the safety issues in a more cohesive way.
This year more than 37000 tourists entered the Antarctic Treaty Area - an increase of about 14 per cent over the last season, he said.
The issue of land based tourism was discussed at length which if not regulated may lead to more than a minor or transitory impact on Antarctica, he said.
Some parties have raised concern about this and urged concrete steps need to be taken as limiting possible future development of tourist infrastructure in Antarctica, he added.
The ATCM adopted a resolution stating that “Parties consistent with their national laws, should: Discourage or decline to authorize tour operators that use vessels carrying more than 500 passengers from making any landings in Antarctica.”
It said parties should encourage or require tour operators to coordinate with each other such that not more than one tourist vessel is at a landing site at any one time.
The tour operators should restrict the number of passengers on shore at any one time to 100 or fewer, maintain a minimum 1:20 guide-to-passenger ratio while ashore.
Parties should also discourage any tourism activities which may substantially contribute to the long-term degradation of the Antarctic environment and its dependent and associated ecosystems, it added.
Sibal also said that the ATCM endorsed the proposal for India’s new station at Larsemann Hills following the review report by Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) that it met all requirements.
Sibal also pointed out that following letters he had written to Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar it had been decided to develop a mechanism whereby scheduling of the cricket matches will be done after an input was received from the Indian Meteorological Department.