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Scrutiny
  
Roach’s good face!
Why you have no idea what’s going on in the Arctic and the Antarctic!
15/10/2009

When it comes to environment and environmental concerns, nothing can beat the global warming issue. Global warming already contributes to anything above 150,000 deaths and five million illnesses annually, as per research reports by the World Health Organisation and the University of Wisconsin. But then, as they say, there’s a good face to every roach that lived. Since civilisation, the Arctic and the Antarctic were the only two regions that did not experience any kind of colonisation. How much longer, you ask? We say, a question too late. A few countries are all set to turn the tables in their favour and commercially exploit this melting issue. With global warming intensifying, new resources and new avenues of commercialisation are gradually getting exposed. So what, you ask again – well, weren’t countries already studying penguins in these caps? Wake up Rip, you really have no idea what’s going on!

The North Pole first. The Arctic icecap is rapidly melting, thus opening up access to massive natural resources and creating shipping shortcuts that could save billions of dollar. It is estimated that over 50% of the ice cover in the Arctic region has disappeared since the last 2-3 years, resulting in the opening up of new sea routes. Countries like Russia, Canada, Denmark and Norway are leaving no opportunity to claim their control over this area. Since August 2007, strategic bomber patrol flights (predominantly Russian) are a regular affair over the region. Not for anything else, but to keep an eye over the activities of other countries over this region. In the same year, in 2007, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also showed his interest in sending naval patrol vessels to Arctic and setting up a training centre along the Northwest Passage. He further announced the building of a deep-sea port (at Nanisivik) and a military base (at Resolute Bay). The very next year, in 2008, Canada conducted its largest military exercise ever. A few months back, in July 2009, Denmark’s MPs approved plans to set up an Arctic military command and task force. Likewise, Norway is also considering exploration for oil and natural gas in its Arctic volcanic island of Jan Mayen.
If Russia thought it had had a head start, today, the region is covered by strategic bomber flights of Canada, Norway and Denmark too – of course, with the Russian navy patrolling the waters. This unconventional growing interest of various countries over ‘dead’ region can be explained through researches conducted by the US Geological Survey (USGS) and the Norwegian company StatoilHydro that predicts that the Arctic hides 25% of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas deposits.

The studies further reveal that the region may contain nine billion barrels of oil and 86 trillion cubic feet of gas. Extending this research, British Petroleum, Europe’s second-largest oil company, estimates the region to hold nothing less than 200 billion barrels of oil or up to 50% of the world’s undiscovered hydrocarbons. In September 2006, Gazprom completed drilling in a few areas of Shtokman field (estimated to have 3.8 trillion cubic meters of natural gas and more than 37 million tonnes of gas) and expects the gas production facility to be operative by 2015.

Add to it the newly discovered sea routes, which are saving huge amounts for shipping companies. Warming can take a walk, many companies use icebreaker ships to cut the ice, their cost and transit time. A fast-dedicated sea-lane is being planned between the Arctic port of Murmansk (in Russia) and the Hudson Bay port of Churchill (in Canada). Arctic routes are unbelievably giving substantial competition to Panama and Suez Canals; and their biggest selling point is that as of now – unlike the Suez or Panama – there are no fees for Arctic routes, unless of course polar bears attempt to fleece you. Talking business, even South Asia’s giant, China, is gearing up to exploit this business model. China has one large “research” icebreaker, the Snow Lion (Xuelong), which is being used in both the Arctic and Antarctic. Since China’s economy is highly dominated by exports and international trade, such low cost shipping route would add to its profit. Beluga Shipping, on September 12, 2009, became the first shipping company to travel through the Northeast Passage without an icebreaker ship as an escort. A few weeks later, even German merchant ships MV Beluga Fraternity and MV Beluga Foresight from Ulsan, South Korea arrived through the passage at Yamburg, Siberia.

By:- Sray Agarwal
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