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People's Daily Online>>China Politics

South Pole protection law to be introduced

By Wang Qian (China Daily)

08:25, February 16, 2012

BEIJING - A regulation covering human activity in the Antarctic, to protect the fragile environment, is set to be introduced.

Activities, including scientific research, tourism, exploration, fishing and transportation in the South Pole must get government approval, according to a draft regulation by the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration.

The draft rule also bans nuclear and military activities as well as mineral mining, the administration told China Daily in a written statement.

Any application must be accompanied with an assessment report of the possible environmental consequences, it said.

Polluting the South Pole could result in hefty fines or travel bans to the region and any environmental damage must be corrected, if possible, according to the draft regulation.

No further details about penalties or punishments were revealed.

The administration said it had finished drafting the regulation and submitted it to the State Council Legislative Affairs Office, which is now gauging opinion from the relevant authorities.

Trips to the South Pole from China are not strictly managed and there are no official figures on how many Chinese people enter the Antarctic region every year.

Liu Cigui, director of the State Oceanic Administration, which oversees the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration, emphasized the importance of this legislation earlier this year.

The South Pole is a key area and influences global climate and consequently anything that damages it has global consequences, he said.

The World Wide Fund for Nature's (WWF) marine program manager Rebecca Bird also said earlier this year that this, almost pristine, marine environment is endangered unless there is a coordinated international effort to protect it.

"Current measures are not enough to stem the tide of human activities that threaten this great southern wilderness," she said.

According to statistics from the WWF, yearly ice loss along the Antarctic Peninsula has increased by 140 percent in the past decade.

China acceded to the Antarctic Treaty in 1983 and signed the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty in October 1991. The protocol is to protect the Antarctic environment.

China has been sending scientific expeditions annually, since 1984, to the area.

The most recent, the 28th Antarctic research expedition, was launched in November.

Tourist numbers have also grown and most Chinese visitors to the Antarctic region transit through Argentina or Chile.

The Beijing Youth Travel Service told China Daily that its 2012 South Pole tour will begin in August and end in November.

"Every year about 20 people go on the tour, it's very popular. The cost of the tour is about 100,000 yuan ($15,873) for each traveler," a person, who did not give his name, at the company said.

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