Indian Antarctic Bill 2022 | Antarctic Treaty, Facts about Antarctica, India and Antarctica

Government of India has introduced the Draft Indian Antarctic Bill in Lok Sabha. After 40 years of India signing the Antarctic Treaty, the government has introduced the draft of the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2020. This draft bill is India’s first domestic legislation related to Antarctica. Around 27 countries have domestic legislations on Antarctica. 

Provisions of the Indian Antarctic Bill

  • The Bill has a comprehensive list of regulations related to Antarctica including rules for scientific expeditions, individuals, companies and tourist.
  • It extends Indian court jurisdiction to Antarctica for crimes committed by Indian Citizens or foreign citizens who are part of the Indian expedition.
  • The bill introduces a permit system for any expedition or individual who wishes to visit the Antarctica continent. The permit will be given by a committee set up by the government.
  • The Bill now enables Indian tour operators to operate in Antarctica, and set standards for environmental protection as well as waste management.
  • It prohibits drilling, dredging, excavation or collection of mineral resources in the Antarctica region.
  • The Bill also has provision for setting up of a separate court to try crimes committed in Antarctica.

About Antarctica Treaty

  • It was signed by 12 countries in 1959 and it came into force in 1961.
  • India signed the treaty in 1983.
  • This treaty covers the area south of 60°S latitude.
  • The main aim of the treaty is to demilitarize the Antarctica region and establish a zone for peaceful research activities.
  • Currently, it has 54 signatories but only 29 have the right to vote at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings.

The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (the Madrid Protocol) was negotiated, and it came into force on 14 January 1998. The protocol bans all mining and designates Antarctica as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science”.

Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was set up in 1980 for the protection and preservation of the Antarctic.

About Antarctica

  • It is the southernmost continent of the world and is fifth-largest in terms of area. It contains the geographic South Pole.
  • It is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. Most of it is covered by ice.
  • It is mainly a polar desert. It is divided into two by the Transantarctic Mountains close to the neck between the Ross Sea and the Weddell Sea.
  • According to Antarctic Treaty System (1959) activities like military, nuclear, mining, nuclear waste disposal, etc are prohibited.
  • Onyx is the longest river of Antarctica.
  • Lake Vostok is the largest sub-glacial lake and one of the largest lakes in the world.

India and Antarctica

The Indian Antarctic expeditions began in 1981. India has three permanent research base stations in Antarctica. These are Dakshin Gangotri (1983), Maitri (1988) and Bharati (2012).

As of now, India has two operational research stations – Maitri and Bharati.

The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa which is an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Earth Sciences,  manages the entire Indian Antarctic program.

The current Indian Post Office in Antarctica is located at Maitri.

NOTE: In January 2021, India launched the 40th expedition to Antarctica. In November 2021, India launched the 41st Scientific expedition to Antarctica. The ice core drilling would be done in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey and the Norwegian Polar Institute.

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