Issues with Growing Tourism in Antarctic

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Issues with Growing Tourism in Antarctic

Source-This post on Issues with Growing Tourism in Antarctic has been created based on the article “The last continent must remain a pristine wilderness “published in “The Hindu” on 17 June 2024.

Context- The 46th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM-46), held in Kochi, Kerala, recently discussed Antarctic tourism and sought to bring in a regulatory framework but fell short of a definitive solution. However, ATCM-46 made progress by starting a new working group to develop a flexible and thorough plan for overseeing tourism and other activities in the next year.

At ATCM 44 in 2022, India voiced concerns about how tourism affects Antarctic research, conservation, and the environment. India stressed the need for monitoring these impacts and took strong action by passing its own Antarctic Law in 2022, even without global agreement. Issues with Growing Tourism in Antarctic

Read more- Antarctic Bill, 2022 passed in LS

What is the current state of tourism in Antartica?

1) Antarctic tourism has witnessed a dramatic surge in tourist numbers, from a few thousand in the early 1990s to over 1,00,000 in the 2022-23 season, with an estimated 1,18,089 tourists in 2023-2024.

2) The United States and China account for more than 40% of tourists to the Antarctic. This growth is attributed to increased global interest in adventure travel and a desire to experience Antarctica’s unique landscapes and wildlife.

3) Benefits-Antarctic tourism offers educational and economic benefits but also raises significant environmental concerns.

What are the issues with growing tourism in Antarctica?

1) Environmental Concerns-

A) Increased human presence disrupts wildlife, damages fragile ecosystems, and risks introducing invasive species.

B) Ship traffic pollutes pristine waters, and tourism adds to the global carbon footprint.

C) Climate change exacerbates these issues by opening new areas for tourism while increasing ecosystem vulnerability.

2) Governance Challenges-

A) The current governance framework for Antarctic tourism is fragmented and lacks clear regulations. The Antarctic Treaty prioritizes peaceful use and scientific research, while the Madrid Protocol offers broad environmental guidelines but lacks specific tourism regulations.

B) The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) manages day-to-day operations through self-regulation, but many stakeholders find these guidelines insufficient to address mounting environmental pressures.

C) ATCM-46, the main global forum for Antarctic issues, recognized the need for strict tourism rules but couldn’t get all countries to agree. The rule needing unanimous approval often delays decisions, letting countries’ own interests block progress.

3) Current Geopolitical Scenario- The limitations of the consensus rule and the current geopolitical climate further complicate international cooperation on Antarctic governance.

What should be the way forward?

1) There is a need to ensure a sustainable future for Antarctic tourism that involves improving environmental protection, setting up strong monitoring programs, and promoting international cooperation.

2) Recent initiatives at ATCM-46 provide a ray of hope. By emphasizing decisions based on scientific evidence and involving all stakeholders, Antarctica as an untouched wilderness can be preserved.

Question for practice

What is the present condition of tourism in Antarctica? What are the concerns associated with the increasing tourism in Antarctica?

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