Australia plans to build Antarctica’s largest infrastructure project: a new airport and runway that would increase the human footprint in the world’s largest wilderness by an estimated 40%

The mega-program is likely to blow up petrel colonies, disrupt penguin colonies, and envelop part of the wilderness in more than 115000 tons of concrete contain

The Canberra government says the project in the Vestfold Hills of Princess Elizabeth Land is necessary to allow year-round access for scientists and emergency teams to the Davis Research Station, Australia’s southernmost base in Antarctica. Strategic concerns are also one Consideration; Australia seeks to counter China’s growing presence in the frozen southern continent

Environmentalists say the billion dollar plan is a waste of money and could lead to a devastating construction race among territorial rivals

“In terms of scale of investment and environmental impact, this is unprecedented in Antarctica. Although this is done in the name of science, very few scientists are enthusiastic. This is more about flag waving. It is about the presence of Australia.” and cement our aspirations, ”said Shaun Brooks, environmental scientist at the University of Tasmania Institute for Marine and Antarctic Research

He estimates that the project would expand the existing infrastructure on the continent by 40%, which would be harmful and unnecessary

“I can’t help but believe this is going to be a white elephant. How can you justify a multi-billion dollar runway on a winter base of just 19 people that has been easily serviced since 1957?” said Brooks

Australia’s proposed new runway would be 27 km long and 40 m wide and – unlike existing ice and gravel runways in Antarctica – a permanent structure made with cement and 11500 concrete blocks, each weighing more than 10 tons, were erected on the landscape

Pollution, dust, noise and carbon emissions are other issues Shipping the materials from Hobart is expected to take more than a decade and about 100 icebreaker trips The government says the land would be flattened by blasting, crushing and filling with a total of 3m cubic feet of earthwork The project requires the construction of a storage room for explosives, the reclamation of land from the sea for a new quay, new tanks for aviation fuel and a 4 km access road

In addition to the destruction of wildlife habitat during construction, the operation of the completed airport would regularly disrupt breeding colonies of southern giant petrels, seals and Adélie penguins

Several studies and case studies have shown the negative impact of airplanes on Antarctica’s wildlife. In the 1980s, a single drop of mail from a low-flying plane resulted in a rush on a king penguin colony000 people died Colonies of nesting Adélie penguins live in the Vestfold Hills and have to stand on their eggs for long periods of time if the chicks are to hatch successfully. When mothers are panicked by airplanes, eggs can be exposed to icy winds and predators

Among those who have spoken out against the project is Geoff Dimmock, a retired logistics manager and a former organizer of mail dropping and supply missions in the area, he said there is no way for the project to avoid noise and contamination “Me don’t want the hills to be flattened, “he said” In terms of the environment, I think this is a really bad precedent and the value for money is bad ”

Politicians have asked if the government will break its own guidelines that say planes should not fly within 2.1 km of a penguin colony and no runway should be within 500 meters of breeding seals

Tasmania Green Senator Peter Whish-Wilson went further during a parliamentary session in October How could a project with the largest human footprint in Antarctica’s history be reconciled with Australia’s stated goal of “leadership and To promote environmental responsibility ”in the region?


The Australian Antarctic division said the environmental assessment would be reviewed domestically, presented to other Antarctic Treaty states, and released for public consultation in Australia and internationally

“The construction of the airfield will have some inevitable effects We strive to understand the environmental impact and implement mitigation measures according to the highest possible standards and in accordance with legal requirements, “wrote a representative in an email to the Wächter

Plans for a permanent airport in Davis were first circulated decades ago, but previous governments have backed off at the expense.In recent years the idea has been revitalized and is now led by the head of Australia’s Antarctic division, Kim Ellis , a former military officer and managing director of Sydney Airport,

Australia’s Antarctic Division Says Major Upgrade Is Overdue Flights to Antarctica currently land on a runway with blue ice at Wilkins Aerodrome in the southern summer of October through March, which is increasingly inoperable due to global warming, which is increasingly high temperatures destabilize the runway surface The closures for this reason used to last six weeks. Last summer this value rose to 10 weeks

Plans for an asphalt runway are currently undergoing an environmental review. Budget discussions are expected in 2022. If permits are granted, construction would start in 2023 and not run until 2040 at the earliest

Conservationists say the assessment process is flawed because it is approved by Environment Secretary Sussan Ley, who is loudly advocating the proposed runway, describing it as part of a “new era for Australian Antarctica” The government is also aware that China and Russia are improving their bases in the region

Activists say there are viable alternatives such as airplanes that use skis instead of wheels to take off and land.The U.S. military has shown that it can do this even in the dark depths of winter by going in with night vision in 2008 flew one of its bases to evacuate an injured explorer

“The scale does not meet our needs I think raising this big flag will encourage others to do something similar,” he said. “It does not meet Australia’s claim to be environmental leaders. Antarctica is special Everywhere else in the world you measure the wilderness by what is left. In Antarctica, it’s still the other way around ”

Australia

World News – GB – “A really bad precedent”: Australia criticizes Antarctica’s airport plan

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/31/a-real-bad-precedent-australia-criticised-for-antarctica-airport-plan