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However small the interference of human beings in the environment, there is always an impact caused by the occupation of Antarctica, whether for research or for tourism.
Making this change as small as possible is the concern of researchers and countries that are part of the Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1959, establishing rules for occupation of the continent.
The Treaty, which prohibits any military activity, came into force in 1961, ratified by 12 countries, including Brazil. There are currently 47 signatory countries (28 advisory and 19 non-advisory members).
Antarctica's location on the globe
Antarctic Treaty Emblem
As well as the Madrid Protocol, related to environmental issues, the Antarctic treaty establishes norms for conducting scientific research and tourist expeditions in the region. About 29 nations currently have established research stations in Antarctica.
The countries with scientific bases in Antarctica are: South Africa, Germany, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Bulgaria, Chile, China, South Korea, Ecuador, Spain, United States, Russian Federation, Finland, France, India, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Romania, Sweden, Ukraine and Uruguay.
Map of Antarctic Scientific Bases
When it comes to environmental issues, Americans have a shelter that works as a station where there is marine pollution. The Chilean station has an airstrip and a nearby village, which also has a greater environmental impact.
In the Admiralty Bay, where Brazil's Comandante Ferraz Station was destroyed in a fire in February 2012, the environmental imbalance observed was much smaller, but the remains of an abandoned British base still cause problems.
Comandante Ferraz Station from Brazil, present for over 20 years in Admiralty Bay, Antarctica
At dawn on February 25, 2012, there was a fire generated by an explosion without cause in the Square of Machines, where are the power generators of the station. Because it was attached to the rest of the facility, the fire spread, destroying much of Comandante Ferraz Station, causing two fatalities.
Photograph of fire that destroyed part of the station in 2012
With the growth of tourism activities in the Antarctic region, the experts' greatest concern is concentrated in the coastal area, where there is more movement. According to the International Association of Antartic Tour Operator (IAATO), King George Island is the most sought after by tourists in that area of the planet.
Location of King George Island in Antarctica
There are environmental education projects, but only a few tourist vessels have scientists on board.
Until 2048, no country will be able to exploit the mineral resources of the Antarctic continent. The Madrid Protocol (Treaty of Antarctica) includes a clause prohibiting such exploitation for 50 years. What will happen after that is not known. However, it is remarkable that many nations want this time to pass quickly for oil and gas exploration.