Over 40,000 eco-tourists visiting Antarctica every year are adding to global warming that results in melting of the polar ice caps, a new research has found.
Most of these tourists to the snow-covered South Pole travel in cruise ships to view the ice caps and wildlife such as penguins, causing 'horrendous' pollution from ship fuel and rubbish, said the study by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.
It also stated that the flow of tourists to the region is disturbing wildlife in one of the last pristine landscapes left on Earth.
"The visitors to the snow-covered landmass are endangering not just the Antarctic region by their actions, but also the rest of the world. It could even be making global warming worse," said Machiel Lamers, the lead researcher.
Tourism is a boom industry in Antarctica, which was witnessing just a few hundred tourists some 20 years ago, has attracted 40,000 sight-seers last winter, The Telegraph reported.
Asserting on the need to balance the benefits of Antarctic tourism with the environmental impacts, Lamers said, "The local environment is under pressure, more and larger ships are going there, tourists are perpetually looking for 'tougher, faster, more' and there's actually no-one to keep this all on the right track."
"It is time for clear rules; vague agreements are not enough any more. There needs to be a binding international treaty that will limit the number of tourists and landings allowed in Antarctica," he added.
The South Pole is managed by an international consortium of countries, but no-one is really in charge on the ground.
There is no policy setting out any limits for tourism.
The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators has imposed stringent bio-safety protocols to keep out seeds and insects and has promised to respect the environment.