Antarctic is one of the seven continents of the world. It is coldest continent. No one before 1920s went to Antarctica. In Antarctica 98% of land is covered with snow. There is no permanent residence of people in this unique region but there are many people from all over the world who visit Antarctica for research purpose. Scientist visits Antarctica to study the geography, climate, geology, wildlife of this unique region. India also has its two research station set up in Antarctica: Miatri and Bharati. One more reason why research is conducted in Antarctica is because it is owned or governed by any country. It is managed by group of countries and hence is open for everyone to conduct research and study.
The Antarctica treaty
Antarctica is a natural reserve dedicated to peace and scientific research, located south of 60 degrees south latitude. It should not become the place or object of any international discord.
The Antarctic treaty came into force on 1st December 1959 with the signatories of 12 countries. The main objective of the treaty was that Antarctic should be used only for peaceful purposes and it should not become a place for military base. It acknowledged the scientific knowledge and investigations to be held in Antarctic. This purpose and principle should be further incorporated in UN charter. Article 1 of the treaty talks about peaceful use of analytic and Antarctic should not be place for any military base or even a weapon. Further article 2 gives freedom for scientific investigation. Article 7 prohibits any nuclear explosion or disposal of radio active waste. India signed the treaty in 1983 and after 40 years India have drafted a bill called Antarctic treaty bill 2022.
The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was established in 1980 to safeguard and preserve the Antarctic environment, namely the preservation and conservation of Antarctic marine living resources. The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1991 and came into effect in 1998. According to the treaty, Antarctica is classified as a “natural reserve dedicated to peace and research.”
India signed the treaty in 1983 and after 40 years India have drafted a bill called Antarctic treaty bill 2022.
Objectives of the bill:
- To provide for the national measures for protecting the Antarctic environment
- To put the Antarctic Treaty into effect
Other countries with similar bill/act:
Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, and Venezuela are among the twenty-seven countries that already have domestic legislation on Antarctica.
Provisions of the act:
Below are few important provisions laid down in the bill:
The act is applicable to Indians, non-Indians, company, body corporate, corporation, partnership firm, joint venture, an association of persons or any other entity incorporated, established or registered as such under any law in force in India; or any vessel or aircraft registered in India or outside India.
The act states that a person requires a permit to enter or remain in Antarctica. Without a permit no one shall drill, degrade or excavate any minerals.
The act also called for a committee to set up under the name of ‘Committee on Antarctic Governance and Environmental Protection’ the members of the said committee shall be Secretary who will ex officio chairman of Ministry Of earth sciences.
Ten members nominated by central government from any department such as defence, finance, shipping, tourism, external affairs, legal affairs, etc.
the central government shall also appoint 2 experts from the field of Antarctic environment and geo-political.
One-member secretary shall also be appointed.
The committee’s responsibilities include providing advice, supervision, and enforcement in connection to programmes and activities in Antarctica.
To maintain records of the programmes held by parties in Antarctica.
If there is any dispute between committee and central government, the decision of the central government will be final.
The waste disposal sites on land and abandoned worksites shall be cleaned up by the generators of such wastes.
The act also stated to constitute a fund called ‘Antarctic fund’. The funds collected will be used for welfare of Antarctic research work and protection of environment.
The bill outlines the consequences of breaking its provisions. Conducting a nuclear explosion in Antarctica, for example, will be penalised by a minimum of 20 years in prison, with the possibility of life imprisonment, and a fine of at least Rs 50 crore. The measure also establishes designation courts and their authority. The courts’ jurisdiction will be expanded to Antarctica as a result of this.
Prohibitions stated in the act:
The act prohibits any person to carry out any nuclear explosion or dispose of any radioactive material in Antarctica
further it also prohibited that no vessel in Antarctica shall discharge garbage or any other substance which is harmful to the environment.
No person or vessel shall introduce non-fertile soil and any other substance which is prohibited in any part of Antarctica.
The act also prohibits that no person shall damage, destroy or remove any historic monument or its part in Antarctica.
Why this bill is important?
India has two research station at Antarctica: one at Schirmacher hills called Maitri and second at Larsemann hills called Bharati. In this time where pollution is increasing day by day it is important to protect Antarctica environment and ocean from exploitation. India organizes many Antarctic expeditions and many people from India visit Antarctic as tourists. As per 2001, there are 2100 Indians in Antarctica as part of India Antarctic programme. In the future, private ships and aviation industry will also start their operations in Antarctica and fishing also needs to be regulated in Antarctica. Due to increasing presence of Indian scientists in Antarctica there is need of domestic legislation within the obligations of Antarctica treaty which India has signed.
Bill No. 95 of 2022, https://prsindia.org/billtrack/the-indian-antarctic-bill-2022
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