Madrid Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty

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    In News

    • Recently, the Union Minister of India addressed the International Conference commemorating the signing of the Madrid Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.

    About

    • India has completed 30 years of adoption of signing and implementation of the Madrid Protocol, which reaffirms its commitment to preserving Antarctic environmental and dependent ecosystems.
    • India is committed to the comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystems, and the designation of Antarctica as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science.

    Image Courtesy: Antarctic Treaty 

    India’s take

    • India under the Prime Minister is committed in curtailing carbon emissions in the Antarctic atmosphere. 
    • India has already adopted the green energy initiative by experimenting with the feasibility of wind energy production and installed moderate output of Wind Energy Generators (WEG) on an experimental basis. 
    • The choice of Combined Heat and Power (CHP) for Bharati station to reduce carbon emissions in the Antarctic also promotes India’s pledge to protect the environment.
    • India is looking forward to contributing to the evolving Climate Change Response Work Programme of the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP). 
    • India also anticipates tourism growth and Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing as potential issues.
    • India reaffirms its commitment to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty and at this moment claims to:
      • Implement all Decisions, Resolutions and Measures adopted at ATCM in the Indian Antarctic programme effectively.
      • Use a green alternative energy system in both the Indian Antarctic research stations; Maitri and Bharati like solar panels and wind energy generators so compromising use of fossil fuel gradually and make stations efficient with alternate green energy.
      • Reduce carbon footprints by using vehicles and machinery only when required at the most
      • Use shared supply ship to deliver human resources, materials and machines to Antarctica
      • Control the introduction of non-native species into Antarctica by any means or through vector transfer.

    Image Courtesy: Treaty 

    Antarctic Treaty

    • Signed:
      • The Antarctic Treaty was signed in Washington on 1 December 1959 by the twelve countries whose scientists had been active in and around Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957-58.
    • Some important provisions of the Treaty:
      • Art. I: Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only
      • Art. II: Freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica and cooperation toward that end shall continue
      • Art. III: Scientific observations and results from Antarctica shall be exchanged and made freely available
      • Art. IV: No acts or activities taking place while the present Treaty is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting, supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica or create any rights of sovereignty in Antarctica. No new claim, or enlargement of an existing claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica shall be asserted while the present Treaty is in force.
      • Art. VII: To promote the objectives and ensure the observance of the provisions of the Treaty, “All areas of Antarctica, including all stations, installations and equipment within those areas … shall be open at all times to inspection “.
    • Signatories:
      • Among the signatories of the Treaty were seven countries – Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom – with territorial claims, sometimes overlapping. 
      • Other countries do not recognize any claims. 
      • The US and Russia maintain a “basis of claim”.
    • Members:
      • Currently, it has 54 parties. India became a member of this treaty in 1983.
    • Headquarters:
      • Buenos Aires, Argentina.
    • Present:
      • Recently, the 60th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty was celebrated.
      • The Antarctic treaty remains the only example of a single treaty that governs a whole continent.
      • It is also the foundation of a rules-based international order for a continent without a permanent population.
    • India: 
      • India signed the Antarctic Treaty on 19th August 1983 and soon thereafter received consultative status on 12th September 1983. 
      • The Madrid Protocol was signed by India which came into force on 14th January 1998. 
      • India is one of the 29 Consultative Parties to the Antarctic Treaty. 
      • India is also a member of the Council of Managers of the National Antarctic Programme (COMNAP) and the Scientific Committee of Antarctica Research (SCAR). 
      • All these representations show the significant position that India holds among the nations involved in Antarctic research.
      • India has two active research stations
        • Maitri (commissioned in 1989) at Schirmacher Hills, and 
        • Bharati (commissioned in 2012) at Larsemann Hills in Antarctica. 
      • India has successfully launched 40 annual scientific expeditions to Antarctica till date. 
      • With Himadri station in Ny-Alesund, Svalbard, Arctic, India now belongs to the elite group of nations that have multiple research stations within the Polar Regions.
    • Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty:
      • The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was signed in Madrid on October 4, 1991 and entered into force in 1998. It designates Antarctica as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science”.
      • The Environmental Protocol is best known for its ban on commercial mining in Antarctica. 
        • It would require a consensus of all Parties to change the mining ban.  
      • To mark its 25th anniversary in 2016, all Parties underlined their commitment to the mining ban at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in May 2016;
      • The Protocol sets a framework for the comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment – ensuring that all activities in Antarctica are pre-planned and conducted so as to limit their environmental impacts.

    Way Forward

    • All of the treaty signatories, but especially those with significant stakes in the continent, need to give the future of the treaty more attention.

     Source: PIB