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ATCM-46: Ensuring Antarctica Remains a Pristine Wilderness



  Jun 21, 2024

ATCM-46: Ensuring Antarctica Remains a Pristine Wilderness



 Current Status of Antarctic Tourism

Tourism Growth: Since the 1990s, tourist numbers have surged from a few thousand to over 100,000 in the 2022-23 season. The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) estimates 118,089 tourists for the 2023-24 season.

 Main Contributors: The United States and China account for over 40% of tourists.

 Activities: Tourists engage in wildlife observation, photography, mountain climbing, skiing, and multi-day ship expeditions.


 Benefits and Concerns

 Educational and Economic Benefits: Tourism provides educational insights and economic opportunities.

 Environmental Concerns: Increased human presence disrupts wildlife, damages ecosystems, and risks invasive species introduction. Ship traffic pollutes waters and tourism adds to the global carbon footprint. Climate change further exacerbates these issues.


 Regulatory Framework Challenges

 Fragmented Governance: The Antarctic Treaty of 1961 prioritizes peaceful use and scientific research, while the Madrid Protocol provides broad environmental guidelines but lacks specific tourism regulations.

 Self-Regulation: The IAATO is the primary body overseeing tourism, but its guidelines are seen as inadequate.

 ATCM-46 Efforts: The 46th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM-46) focused on developing a comprehensive regulatory framework. Despite some progress, a consensus on strong regulations was not reached.


 Progress and Limitations

 Historical Efforts: Discussions on tourism regulation date back to the 1960s. A proposed tourism annex in 1991 failed to gain consensus, leading to reliance on IAATO’s self-regulation.

 Consensus Rule: The need for unanimous approval from all consultative parties often hinders decisive action. This has led to non-binding guidelines rather than comprehensive regulation.

 Recent Developments: ATCM-46 established a working group to develop a dynamic framework for regulating tourism and non-governmental activities.


 India's Role and Recommendations

 India’s Concerns: At ATCM 44, India emphasized the impact of tourism on research and conservation. Resolution 5 (2022) advised against building tourism-related structures with significant environmental impacts.

 Antarctic Law: India enacted its own Antarctic Law in 2022 to address these issues.


 Path Forward

 Strengthening Protection: Implement robust monitoring programs and strengthen environmental protection measures.

 International Cooperation: Foster international cooperation and ensure science-based decision-making.

 Responsible Tourism: Recognize the potential benefits of responsible tourism while ensuring Antarctica remains a pristine wilderness for future generations.




SRIRAM’s



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