Australia criticised for Antarctica airport plan

Scientists hit back at plans.


Australia’s government has received strong criticism in its plans to build an airport and runway in Antarctica.


The multibillion-dollar project is expected to involve blasting petrel rookeries, disturb penguin colonies and lay down more than 115,000 tonnes of concrete.


Environmentalists say the airport willΒ be destructive to the biodiversity of the continent.


“It’s unprecedented in the Antarctic in terms of the scale of investment and the impact on the environment. Although it is being done in the name of science, very few scientists are enthusiastic. This is more about flag-waving. It is about firming up Australia’s presence and our claim,” said Shaun Brooks, an environmental scientist at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies of the University at Tasmania.


“I can’t help thinking this will become a white elephant. How can you justify a multi-billion-dollar runway for a base with only 19 people during the winter and which has been maintained without problems since 1957?”


Ironically, the Australian government claims the airport will allow year-round access for environmental scientists to study the continent’s wildlife and marine ecosystem.


The 2,700-meter paved runway will be capable of handling Boeing 787 Dreamliners and Airbus A330’s.


Activists say the runway is unnecessary as there are alternative aircraft that can be used, such as those that use skis instead of wheels for take-off and landing.


The Australian government is conscious that China and Russia are upgrading their bases in the region and want to up their presence on the continent too.