Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022


    In News

    • Recently, Parliament passed the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022.
      • It is an important step forward in India’s engagement with the gigantic continent which began way back in February 1956

    Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022

    • About:
      • It is the first domestic legislation with regard to Antarctica in India.
      • Applicable to Indian citizens as well as foreign citizens.
    • Objective:
      • To demilitarise Antarctica; use of Antarctica for peaceful purposes; promote international scientific cooperation in Antarctica.
      • The Bill seeks to give effect to the Antarctic Treaty, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.
    • Key Features:
      • Prohibit Indian expedition to Antarctica without permit or written authorisation of another party to Antarctic Treaty.
      • Extend jurisdiction of Indian courts to Antarctica and lays out penal provision for crimes on the continent by Indian citizens, foreign citizens who are part of Indian expeditions.
      • The act directs creating a fund called the Antarctic fund that will be used for protecting the Antarctic environment.
      • The Bill also establishes a ‘Committee on Antarctic Governance and Environmental Protection.’
      • Prohibits mining, dredging and activities that threaten the pristine conditions of the continent. 

    What is the Antarctica Treaty?

    • The Treaty covers the area south of 60°S latitude.
    • Objective: To demilitarize Antarctica; use for peaceful purposes & resolve disputes. 
    • Signed in 1959 by 12 countries: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, USSR, the UK and the USA, and came into force in 1961.
      • India signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1983.
    • Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR):  Set up in 1980 for the protection and preservation of the Antarctic.
    • Madrid Protocol: Designates Antarctica as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science” (Signed by India).

    Key Facts about Antarctica

    • The world’s southernmost and fifth-largest continent has the geographic South Pole.
    • The continent is divided into East Antarctica (which is largely composed of a high ice-covered plateau) and West Antarctica (which is largely an ice sheet covering an archipelago of mountainous islands).
    • Antarctica is a unique continent in that it does not have a native population. There are no countries in Antarctica, although seven nations claim different parts of it: New Zealand, Australia, France, Norway, the United Kingdom, Chile, and Argentina.
    • The Indian Antarctic program (1981) has completed 41 scientific expeditions and built three permanent research base stations in Antarctica.
      • DakshinGangotri (1983), Maitri (1988) and Bharati (2012)
      •  ‘Himadri’ station in Svalbard, above the Arctic circle.
    • The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa—an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Earth Sciences—manages the entire Indian Antarctic program.
    • Longest River: Onyx. 
    • Largest Lake: Vostok, is one of the largest subglacial lakes in the world.