Antarctica demands highest commitment to protection, study: Rijiju

KOCHI, 21 May: India on Tuesday made a strong pitch for regulated tourism in Antarctica, saying that it is a front-burner issue as the number of tourists visiting the icy continent has increased significantly over the past few years.

“This icy expanse is not just a frozen desert; it is a dynamic, living laboratory that demands our highest commitment to protection and study,” Earth Sciences Minister Kiren Rijiju said at the inauguration of the 46th Antarctica Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) here.

Considered as the Parliament for Antarctica, the ATCM is the highest forum for governing the icy continent with the participation of 56 countries, 29 of whom enjoy the consultative status, which comes with decision-making powers. The ATCM takes all decisions by consensus.

A separate working group on developing a framework for regulating tourism in Antarctica has been set up at the ATCM that got underway here.

At the outset, the ATCM elected former deputy national security adviser Pankaj Saran as the chairman for the 10-day deliberations that are scheduled to conclude on 30 May. The 26th meeting of the Committee for Environment Protection is also being held during this period.

Rijiju also announced India’s plans to build a new research station, Maitri-II, to strengthen capabilities to conduct vital research, particularly in connection with the instability of the East Antarctic ice sheet.

Voicing concern over the increase in the number of tourists in Antarctica, Earth Sciences Ministry Secretary M Ravichandran said that it is the collective resolve of the ATCM to ensure that all activities, including research and tourism, areconducted in a manner that preserve its ecological integrity for future generations.

“India is honoured to lead this crucial initiative at the 46th ATCM that is expected to bring a series of actionable recommendations to be incorporated into the broader framework of the Antarctic Treaty System,” said Ravichandran, the head of the Indian delegation.

He said that regulating tourism in Antarctica has been on the agenda since 1966 and a dedicated working group for the purpose has been formulated for the first time at the 46th ATCM, hosted by India. (PTI)