Antarctic Treaty members must define if tourism is a compatible activity for Antarctica, (including hotels and casinos), and an environmental assessment is an important starting point, said visiting Professor Daniel Bodansky during a conference in Punta Arenas.
Professor Bodansky teaches International Environmental Law in the University of Georgia is closely linked to the US State Department and was invited to lecture on the subject by the Chilean Antarctic Institute and the Chilean Antarctic Province authorities.
"The growing interest in Antarctica and Antarctic tourism puts pressure on natural resources in the area, which makes it into a challenge, a cooperative challenge for all country members of the Antarctic Treaty", said Professor Bodansky. "Currently we don't have factual evidence of the negative effects of Antarctic tourism on resources, but it's possible to study the potential threat they represent".
Professor Bodansky proposed that jurisdiction identification elements be introduced into Antarctic tourism such as the flag of the country, the name of the country that organized the expedition, nationality of organizers and the state to which belongs the port from where the expedition originally left.
A second step is to study and define those activities that are compatible with the objectives of the Antarctic Treaty.
"Environment assessment is an important starting point, but if we define tourism as a compatible activity, this means we can build hotels and casinos in Antarctica", stressed Professor Bodansky. "Therefore all Treaty members have to talk and define those activities that are compatible or non compatible with the Treaty, regardless of environmental aspects".
Asked about the road the US is building connecting the Southern Pole with a rim base, Mr. Bodansky admitted some NGO are protesting but he admitted not having addressed the issue.
However, "the US has high standards and has a well regulated environmental management and performance in Antarctica, so I presume if they undertake such an enterprise it's because it has been adequately regulates and all the necessary precautions have been taken".