Preserve Antarctica's pristine wilderness

I read with concern that countries such as China and South Korea are operating bases in the Southern Ocean of Antarctica to harvest krill on a large scale ("Countries rushing to secure greater sway in Antarctica"; Dec 31, 2015), and that more bases are being planned by several other countries.

There are many marine animals that depend on krill, and over-fishing of krill would deprive animals such as whales of an important food source, and possibly knock out the entire food chain like a stack of dominoes.

Antarctica is one of the rapidly shrinking places of pristine wilderness left on planet Earth.

It is a place free from any kind of man-made pollution.

Previously, there were no permanent human settlements or towns in this fifth largest continent, but now, all this is bound to change as nations rush to exploit its hitherto unclaimed natural resources.

The irreversible and damaging effects and repercussions of over-exploitation of any area is well epitomised by Easter Island.

It was once a fertile land completely covered with tall trees and teeming with diverse wildlife.

But the early Polynesian people over-exploited the place to build their gigantic stone statues.

With overpopulation of people came deforestation, and the island became exponentially degraded.

Easter Island has since become barren, devoid of indigenous plant and animal life that once flourished there.

This could also happen elsewhere if we are not careful.

With this past lesson and to protect Antarctica, despite the possibility of pressure from several countries to review the no-mining treaty even before 2048, the treaty should remain as it is and all human activity there should be restricted to scientific research and exploration only.

We should bear in mind the reason for the signing of the no-mining treaty in the first place: To protect the continent from any form of pollution and adverse effects to the local ecosystem.

However tantalising the vast quantities of resources like oil and gas might be, this is no longer a sustainable option, as we strive to explore alternative cleaner ways to power our world.

This immense store of carbon should remain locked underground.

I fear for the future of Antarctica and its vast colonies of penguins, seals, whales and other creatures, and whether they, too, would suffer the same fate as all the other places that have been over-exploited for resources.

We would not want to see Antarctica go down the same road as Easter Island.

Lee Kay Yan (Miss)