Australia has abandoned plans to build a 2,700m concrete runway near its Davis research station on the coast of Antarctica. Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has attributed the decision to concerns about the environmental impact of the project, says Environment Minister Sussan Ley.
The federal government announced on Nov. 25, 2021, that it would not approve the airstrip, which was to be built near the Davis Research Station, after a detailed environmental and economic review.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley said, “Over the last five years, the Government has thoroughly investigated the runway option to significantly improve our understanding of this unique terrestrial and marine environment, which will help to impact our future investments.”
The project, originally announced in May 2018, would have seen the construction of the first paved runway on the southern continent. The runway could have handled wide-body aircraft and strategic transports year-round.
Currently, Davis Research Station is only accessible during the Australian summer by icebreaker or by small aircraft on internal routes.
“It is now clear that due to higher projected costs, potential environmental impacts and the complexity of a 20-year construction process in an extreme and sensitive environment, we will now focus on alternative options to expand our broader Antarctic program capabilities.”
The construction would have seen two cargo ships to Antarctica every year for material deliveries for up to 10 years. The completion date was set for 2040.
Environmentalists are pleased with this decision
The ‘Bob Brown Foundation’ had opposed the airstrip, claiming it would cause irreversible damage to the unique ecology and set a dangerous precedent for future development.
“The Australian government has done the right thing by putting the Antarctic environment first,“ said foundation activist Alistair Allan.
“This proposal should be permanently relegated to the history books and the idea of laying hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete in such an incredible ecosystem should be considered a bad idea to avoid a disaster.”
Tasmania Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said “the government’s decision was a common sense win”.
Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal
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