With Antarctica bill, India seeks robust polar footprints  


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By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, August 1: The Antarctica is the largest refrigerator of the world, which requires protection and preservation with global collaborations, said the government, as the Parliament passed a bill seeking to put in place a regulatory framework for the continent for the Indian citizens.

Addressing the 10th Scientific Community on Antarctic Research (SCAR) Open Science Conference in a virtual mode, Union Minister Jitendra Singh on Monday said, this is critical as the world faces unprecedented Climate variability in its phase of human forced changes.

“This change in Antarctica will get reflected in weather patterns and thereby influencing not only the world’s climate but also economies and health as well. It’s time for the scientific community to talk in unison and work towards common goals of Antarctic heritage and scientific temper,” said Singh.

The Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the Antarctica Bill, which has its main aim to ensure de-militarization of the region along with getting it rid of mining or illegal activities. It also aims that there should not be any nuclear test/explosion in the region.

“The Bill provides a harmonious policy and regulatory framework for India’s Antarctic activities through well-established legal mechanisms and will help in efficient and elective operations of Indian Antarctic programme. It will also facilitate India’s interest and pro-active involvement in the management of growing Antarctic tourism and sustainable development of fisheries resources in Antarctic waters,” added Singh.

He stated that the continuing and growing presence of Indian scientists in Antarctica in the research stations with concurrent commitment to Antarctic studies and protection of fragile Antarctic ecosystem warrants adoption of domestic legislation on Antarctica consistent with its obligations as a member of Antarctic Treaty System.

The enforcement of such laws will confer jurisdiction on the courts of India to deal with any dispute or crimes committed in parts of Antarctica.

The Bill also proposed to set-up the Indian Antarctic Authority (IAA) under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, which shall be the apex decision making authority and shall facilitate programmes and activities permitted under the Bill.

It shall provide a stable, transparent and accountable process for the sponsorship and supervision of Antarctic research and expeditions; ensure the protection and preservation of the Antarctic environment; and shall ensure compliance by Indian citizens engaged in the Antarctic programs and activities with relevant rules and internationally agreed standards.

India has two operational research stations in Antarctica named Maitri (Commissioned in 1989) and Bharati (Commissioned in 2012).

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.

“The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources was signed at Canberra on the 20th day of May, 1980, inter alia, for the protection and preservation of the Antarctic environment and, in particular, for the preservation and conservation of marine living resources in Antarctica,’ said the government in a statement.

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