Sharing global concern on growing environmental pressures faced by Antarctica, Earth Sciences Minister Kapil Sibal on Monday underlined the need for curbing tourism and other human activity in Antarctica.
Inaugurating the Thirtieth Antarctic Treaty Consultative Committee Meeting being held for the first time in India he hoped that a consensus will emerge on the "advisability of tourism and other human activity in the Antarctica, and a framework of regulation to contain it."
Those who crafted the Antarctic Treaty might not have thought of the possibility of large scale human activities in the icy continent for recreational purposes, 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, as well as the imperative of protecting the Antarctic environment, he added.
ATCM is the highest administrative forum for governing the Antarctica under the unique and one of the most successful Antarctic Treaty of 1959. Critical issues concerning Antarctica are discussed in ATCMs and management decisions are taken by consensus by the 28 Consultative Parties of the Treaty.
He said that despite more than 50 years of collaborative scientific research and exploration Antarctica has still not unraveled its deep hidden secrets. We have not even touched the tip of the iceberg, he added.
Mr Sibal said India is deeply committed to continue to play an active role in the domain of Antarctic science and logistics with the underpinning motto to preserve the pristine environment of the last frontier on Earth.
Mr Sibal cautioned, "We need to strike a delicate balance between science and environment. Our scientific research projects must not negatively impact the Antarctic environment".
Dr UR Rao, an eminent Space Scientist and the Former Chairman, Space Commission elected Chairman of the Thirtieth ATCM said polar regions offer ideal locations to undertake many cutting edge research topics, particularly in the present scenario of global warming which can trigger alarming changes across the entire global.
The latest IPCC Working Committee report on Climate Change clearly indicates that mountain glacier and snow cover have declined in both hemispheres resulting in rise in the average sea level by about 1.8 mm per year during 1961- 2003,he said.
Even assuming the global carbon dioxide emission will be restricted to not more than twice the present rate, expected sea level rise by 2100 would be in the range of 0.2 to 0.43 with severe consequences across the globe.
Antarctica, he said, provides a unique platform for carrying out research on charged particle interaction, auroral phenomena and also astronomical studies.