The Lok Sabha postponed consideration and passage of the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022, because the Opposition benches were empty due to ongoing protests outside Parliament.
GS Paper 3- Environment conservation
Do you know about India’s two operational research stations in Antarctica, Maitri and Bharati? Answer in the context of the Antarctic bill. (250 Words)
Objective of the bill
- To provide for national measures to protect the Antarctic environment and associated ecosystems, as well as to give effect to the Antarctic Treaty;
- To provide a harmonious policy framework for India’s Antarctic activities through a well-established legal mechanism;
- Facilitate activities of the Indian Antarctic Programme, such as Antarctic tourism management and sustainable fisheries development.
- To make it illegal to conduct certain activities without a permit or the written permission of another protocol party.
- To provide for inspection in India by an officer designated as an Inspector by the Central Government, as well as to form an inspection team to conduct inspections in Antarctica.
- Prohibit drilling, dredging, excavation, or collection of mineral resources, as well as any activity that identifies the location of such mineral deposits.
The Antarctic Governance Committee:
- It will empower the government to form an Antarctic governance and environmental protection committee to monitor, implement, and ensure compliance with relevant international laws, emissions standards, and protection rules.
- The panel will be chaired ex officio by the secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
- He/she has served as vice-president of the International Science Council’s Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research since 2018.
- The committee will consist of ten members from various Union government ministries, departments, and organisations, as well as two experts on the Antarctic environment or other relevant areas.
Activities that are prohibited
- Nuclear detonation or radioactive waste disposal
- Use of non-sterile soil, as well as
- Discharge of garbage, plastic, or other potentially harmful substances into the sea.
Regarding the Antarctic Treaty
- Antarctica has a geographical area of 14 million square kilometres and no indigenous population (i.e. “Antarcticans” do not exist).
- Throughout the year, however, a few thousand people live there in some 40 research stations spread across the continent.
- Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the USSR, the United Kingdom, and the United States signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1959.
- Their goal was to keep the continent from becoming militarised and to make it a centre of peaceful activities.
- Over time, more countries, including India, joined the treaty, and it now has more than 54 signatories.
Antarctic Treaty Organization:
- It is the entire set of arrangements made for the purpose of regulating relations among states in the Antarctic, with the goal of ensuring, in the interests of all mankind, that Antarctica is used exclusively for peaceful purposes and does not become the scene or object of international discord.
- It is a global accomplishment that has been a hallmark of international cooperation for more than 50 years.
- These agreements are legally binding and purpose-built for the Antarctic’s unique geographical, environmental, and political characteristics, and they form a robust international governance framework for the region.
The Treaty’s Importance
- The treaty requires each party to take appropriate measures within its jurisdiction to ensure protocol compliance, such as the adoption of laws and regulations, administrative actions, and enforcement measures.
- Countries also signed the Antarctic Treaty’s Protocol on Environmental Protection in 1991, designating Antarctica as a “natural reserve devoted to peace and science.”
- The growing presence of Indian scientists in Antarctica, as well as the government’s commitment to Antarctic research and protection, prompted the government to enact domestic legislation in accordance with its obligations as a member of the Antarctic Treaty system.
- These laws will allow India’s courts to hear disputes or crimes committed in parts of Antarctica, and will help India’s participation gain credibility.
The Indian Antarctic Program
- It is a programme of scientific research and exploration run by the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCPOR). It all began in 1981, with the first Indian expedition to Antarctica.
- NCPOR is the country’s nodal agency for the planning, promotion, coordination, and execution of all polar and southern ocean scientific research, as well as the associated logistics activities.
- It was founded in 1998.
- Dakshin Gangotri:
- As part of the Indian Antarctic Program, Dakshin Gangotri was the first Indian scientific research base station established in Antarctica.
- It has weakened and is now only a supply base.
- Maitri is India’s second permanent Antarctic research station. It was constructed and completed in 1989.
- Maitri is located in the rocky mountainous region known as the Schirmacher Oasis. Lake Priyadarshini, which is located around Maitri, was also built by India.
- Bharti, India’s most recent research station, which has been operational since 2012. It was built to allow researchers to work safely in inclement weather.
- It is India’s first dedicated research facility and is located approximately 3000 kilometres east of Maitri.
- Other Research Centers:
- Nidhi Sagar:
- India commissioned the Sagar Nidhi for research in 2008.
- It is an ice-class vessel that can cut through 40 cm thick ice and is the first Indian vessel to navigate Antarctic waters.
The Importance of Antarctica to India:
- Antarctica has grown in importance in today’s geopolitical landscape due to its wealth of natural resources.
- Because these areas are not part of any territory in the traditional sense of a territory of a nation-sovereign state, their governance has become increasingly important to world powers.
- On August 19, 1983, India ratified the Antarctic Treaty and was granted observer status the following year. The protocol went into effect for India on January 14, 1998.
- Dakshin Gangotri, Maitri, and Bharati are the names of three permanent research base stations in Antarctica that are part of the Indian Antarctic programme.
- India currently operates two research stations in Antarctica: Maitri (since 1988) and Bharati (commissioned in 2012). In the link, you can learn about Himadri, India’s Arctic research station.