NEW DELHI, Apr 1: Amidst notices of objection from the opposition, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology; Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh today introduced landmark “The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022” in the Lok Sabha to provide a regulatory framework for India’s research activities in the Antarctic.
The Bill provides for national measures for protecting the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystem.
The Bill aims to give effect to the Antarctic Treaty, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and to Protocol on the Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. India needs to formulate and enforce its own laws for Antarctica. 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 by Indian citizens. Legislation of such a kind will bind the citizens to the policies of the Antarctic treaty system. This will also be useful in building credibility and enhancing the status of the Country globally.
Explaining the rationale behind the legislation, Dr Jitendra Singh said, the continuing and growing presence of Indian scientists in Antarctica in the research stations with concurrent commitment to Antarctic studies and protection of the fragile Antarctic ecosystem warrants adoption of domestic legislation on Antarctica consistent with its obligations as a member of Antarctic Treaty System.
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 41 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.
Currently 54 nations have agreed to the Antarctic treaty. However, only 29 nations including India have a right to vote at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings.
The basic features of the proposed Bill seeks to provide, inter alia, for the following :-to provide for permit for certain activities in Antarctica such as for Indian expedition to Antarctica, for entering Indian stations in Antarctica, for vessel and aircraft entering Antarctica, for mineral resource activities and permit for such other activities in Antarctica as specified in the Bill;to prohibit certain activities in Antarctica including prohibition of nuclear explosion or disposal of radioactive wastes material, introducing specified substances and products, non-sterile soil and specified substances and products in Antarctica, damaging, destroying,to provide for establishment of the Committee on Antarctic Governance and Environmental Protection (the Committee) consisting of the Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, who shall be the Chairperson, ex officio, ten members from any of the Ministries or Departments or organisations of the Central Government specified in the Bill, two experts from the fields of Antarctic environment and Geo-political and such other experts in the relevant field, to be notified by the Central Government, for the purpose of performing, inter alia, the following functions, namely:- Monitor, implement and ensure compliance of the relevant international laws, emission standards and rules for the protection of Antarctic environment by the Operators or by any other persons engaged in programmes and activities in Antarctica;Undertake any advisory, supervisory or enforcement activities in relation to programmes and activities in Antarctica;Obtain and review relevant information and reports provided by parties to the Treaty, the Convention, the Protocol and other Parties engaged in programmes and activities in Antarctica;Maintain records pertaining to the programmes and activities conducted by Parties in Antarctica;Ensure that the programmes and activities are consistent with India’s obligations under the Treaty, the Convention, the Protocol and with such other relevant law for the time being in force in India;Determine the terms and conditions of the permit issued under this Act;Negotiate fees or charges with other Parties to the Treaty, the Convention and the Protocol on a case to case basis in respect of the programmes and activities in Antarctica;Collaborate with other Parties to attain the above goals.