The Indian Antarctic Bill
- April 6, 2022
- Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
- Category: DPN Topics
The Indian Antarctic Bill
Section: Climate Change
Context- The Union government on Friday introduced the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022, that aims to lay down a set of rules to regulate a range of activities on territories in Antarctica where India has set up research stations.
What is the Objective of the Bill?
- To provide a harmonious policy framework for India’s Antarctic activities through a well-established legal mechanism, facilitate activities of the Indian Antarctic programme, including management of Antarctic tourism and sustainable development of fisheries.
The Provisions of the bill:
- Regulate Visiting: The bill has listed strict guidelines and a system of permits, which will be issued by a government-appointed committee, without which any expedition or individual will not be allowed to enter Antarctica.
- Protecting Mineral Resources: The Bill further prohibits drilling, dredging, excavation or collection of mineral resources or even doing anything to identify where such mineral deposits occur.
- The only exception is for scientific research with a permit.
- Protecting Native Plants: There will be strict prohibition on damaging native plants, flying or landing helicopters or operating vessels that could disturb birds and seals, using firearms that could disturb the birds and animals, remove soil or any biological material native to Antarctica, engage in any activity that could adversely change the habitat of birds and animals, or harm them.
- Prohibition on introducing Birds not Native to Antarctica: Introduction of animals, birds, plants or microscopic organisms that are not native to Antarctica are also prohibited. Violators can face imprisonment as well as penalties.
- Provisions for Indian Tour Operators: The Bill also provides for Indian tour operators to be able to operate in Antarctica after acquiring a permit.
- There are 40 permanent research stations in Antarctica of which two – Maitri and Bharati — are Indian.
What is the Need of Such Law?
- India had been a signatory to the Antarctica Treaty since 1983 and that encumbered India to specify a set of laws governing portions of the continent where it had its research bases.
- The Treaty made it mandatory for the 54 signatory countries to specify laws governing territories on which their stations are located.
- India is also signatory to treaties such as the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and the Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.
- Both the conventions enjoin India to help preserve the pristine nature of the continent.
What is the history of the Antarctic Treaty?
- The Antarctic Treaty came into force on June 23, 1961 after ratiﬁcation by the 12 countries then active in Antarctic science.
- The Treaty covers the area south of 60°S latitude.
- Its key objectives are
- to demilitarise Antarctica,
- to establish it as a zone free of nuclear tests and the disposal of radioactive waste, and
- to ensure that it is used for peaceful purposes only;
- to promote international scientiﬁc cooperation in Antarctica and to set aside disputes over territorial sovereignty.
- Of the 54 signatory countries, 29 have ‘consultative’ status that gives them voting rights.
- The Treaty parties meet each year at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.
- They have adopted over 300 recommendations and negotiated separate international agreements.
- These, together with the original Treaty, provide the rules which govern activities in the Antarctic. Collectively they are known as the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS).
What research does India conduct at Antarctica?
- India has organised 37 expeditions to Antarctica.
- The major thrust areas of the Indian Antarctic Programme are climate processes and links to climate change, environmental processes and conservation and polar technology.
- The operational expenditure of the Antarctic expedition is ₹90-110 crore annually depending on the projects and services.