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India in Antarctica-IR(7th May)



International Relation

India in Antarctica


Let us Understand Antarctica Bill

  • Nearly 40 years after India first signed the Antarctic Treaty, the government has brought in a draft Indian Antarctic Bill, 2020.
  • The draft bill is the first domestic legislation with regard to Antarctica in India.
  • While India has been sending expeditions to Antarctica for the past 40 years, these expeditions have been circumscribed by international law.
  • The Bill now puts into place a comprehensive list of regulations related to Antarctica, for such scientific expeditions, as well as for individuals, companies and tourists.
  • The Ministry has explained that it expects activity in Antarctica to increase in the coming years, making the enforcement of a domestic set of protocols essential.

Significance of Legislation

  • A domestic legislation will further provide more validity to the Antarctic Treaty, and subsequent protocols, of which India is a signatory.
  • The most significant part of the Bill is extending the jurisdiction of Indian courts to Antarctica, for crimes on the continent by Indian citizens.
  • OR EVEN foreign citizens who are a part of Indian expeditions.
  • So far there was no recourse for crimes committed during an expedition, including crimes against the environment.
  • 27 other countries already have domestic legislations on Antarctica

Let us Understand Antarctica Treaty

  • Although 7 countries claim distinct sections of Antarctica, there are no countries in Antarctica
  • New Zealand, Australia, France, Norway, the United Kingdom, Chile, and Argentina are among the countries represented.
  • The Antarctic Treaty governs the use of Antarctica for scientific research and other purposes.
  • On the 1st of December 1959, a treaty was signed in Washington between 12 countries.
  • The Purpose was to make the Antarctic Continent a demilitarized zone to be used primarily for scientific study.

 Initial Members to the Antarctic Treaty


Some Facts

  • Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom, and the United States are among the initial signatories.
  • The Treaty covers the area south of 60°S latitude.
  • The pact was signed in 1961 and now has 54 signatories.
  • However only 29 nations have a right to vote at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings – this includes India.
  • In 1983, India became a signatory to the Pact.

There are 4 Important international treaties that make up the Antarctic Treaty System

  • 1959 Antarctic Treaty
  •  1972 Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals
  • 1980 Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources
  • 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty

Facts You Should Know

  • The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was set up in 1980.
  • It was set up for the protection and preservation of the Antarctic environment and, in particular, for the preservation and conservation of marine living resources in Antarctica.
  • The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1991 and came into force in 1998.
  • It designates Antarctica as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science”.

What are The Main Provisions of the Bill?

  • The most significant provision of the Bill remains the extending of jurisdiction of Indian courts to Antarctica.
  • The Bill is a comprehensive document of regulations, particularly keeping in mind environmental protection and the fragile nature of the region.
  • The Bill introduces an elaborate permit system for any expedition or individual who wishes to visit the continent.
  • These permits will be issued by a Committee that will be set up by the government.
  • The permits can be cancelled by the Committee if deficiencies are found or activities in contravention of the law are detected.

Fishing & Tourism

  • India does not carry out commercial fishing in the area, since every country has an allotted quota.
  • The Bill now provides for this activity but with strict guidelines
  • While India does not carry out any tourism activity in the region, and very few Indian tourists visit Antarctica.
  • They do so through foreign tour operators.
  • Antarctica receives a number of tourists from foreign countries.
  • The Bill now enables Indian tour operators to operate in Antarctica.
  • The Bill further enlists elaborate standards for Environmental protection as well as waste management.

Prohibitions Introduced in The Bill

  • The Bill prohibits drilling, dredging, excavation or collection of mineral resources or even doing anything to identify where such mineral deposits occur.
  • The Only Exception being for scientific research with a Granted Permit.
  • Engaging in any activity that could adversely change the habitat of birds and animals, kill, injure or capture any bird or animal have been strictly prohibited.
  • The introduction of animals, birds, plants or microscopic organisms that are not native to Antarctica are also prohibited
  • Introduction of an exotic species to the continent can draw imprisonment of seven years and a fine of Rs 50 lakh!!

There is More!

  • India successfully launched the 41st Scientific Expedition to Antarctica on November 15, 2021.
  • Under the 41st Expedition, there are two major programmes.
  • At Bharati station, geological exploration of the Amery ice shelf (the third largest ice shelf in Antarctica) is included.
  • This will aid in the investigation of the historical link between India and Antarctica.
  • Reconnaissance surveys and preparation activities for a 500-meter ice core drilling near Maitri.
  • It will contribute to a better knowledge of Antarctic climate, westerly winds, sea ice, and greenhouse gases based on a single climatic archive spanning 10,000 years.

Research Stations In Antarctica

Dakshin Gangotri:

  • As part of the Indian Antarctic Program, it was the first Indian scientific research base station created in Antarctica (1984)
  • It has diminished to the point where it is now merely a supply base.
  • It is 2500 kilometers south of the South Pole.


  • It is India’s second permanent Antarctic research outpost.
  • It was constructed and completed in 1989.
  • Maitri is located in the Schirmacher Oasis, a rocky mountainous region.
  • Around Maitri, India constructed Lake Priyadarshini, a freshwater lake.


  • It is India’s most recent research station, which has been operational since 2012.
  • It was built to keep researchers safe while working in inclement weather.
  • It’s India’s first dedicated research facility, and it’s around 3000 kilometers east of Maitri.

Sagar Nidhi 

  • It was commissioned by India for research in 2008.
  • It is the first Indian vessel to explore Antarctic seas and is an ice-class vessel capable of cutting through thin ice up to 40 cm thick.

Question For Practice

Identify the Incorrect Statement

  1. The Bill has provisions for investigation and trial for crimes committed on the Antarctic continent.
  2. Australia’s claim is the largest, with a 42% share of the entire continent covering a whopping six million square kilometers.
  3. NCPOR looks after India’s permanent outposts in Antarctica, Maitri and Bharati as well as Himadri, India’s Arctic research base.
  4. Amery ice shelf is the largest ice shelf in Antarctica.