- India is drafting a dedicated Antarctica policy and a law to have a clear policy on the consequences of its activities in the region.
- Dakshin Gangotri, has weakened and become just a supply base. A committee that includes Biman Patel, Vice-Chancellor, Gujarat National Law University, has been asked to draft the new ‘Antarctica law.’
- The Antarctica treaty is framed to ensure that Antarctica shall continue to used exclusively for peaceful purposes and not become an object of international discord.
India on the Antarctic Treaty
- The Indian Antarctic Programme is a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional programme under the control of the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India.
- Under the programme, atmospheric, biological, earth, chemical, and medical sciences are studied by India, which has carried out 35 scientific expeditions to the Antarctic till now.
- The programme was initiated in 1981 with the first Indian expedition to Antarctica, a huge geo-political achievement. Dr. S Z Qasim, Secretary of Department of Environment and former Director of NIO was selected as the leader of the 21-member team.
- the land exploration of Antarctica is recent, most of it being accomplished during the twentieth century.
- By mid-century, permanent stations were being established and planning was underway for the International Geophysical Year (IGY) in 1957-58, the first substantial multi-nation research program in Antarctica.
- The outstanding success of the IGY led these nations to agree that peaceful scientific cooperation.
- The Antarctic Treaty was signed in Washington on 1 December 1959 by the twelve nations that had been active during the IGY (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States and USSR).
- The Treaty, which applies to the area south of 60° South latitude, is surprisingly short, but remarkably effective.
- The Treaty has 52 signatories, 28 Consultative.
Conventions such as the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (1972), and Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (1980) are appended to this treaty for protection.
- stipulates that Antarctica should be used exclusively for peaceful purposes, military activities, such as the establishment of military bases or weapons testing, are specifically prohibited;
- guarantees continued freedom to conduct scientific research, as enjoyed during the IGY;
- Promotes international scientific cooperation including the exchange of research plans and personnel, and requires that results of research be made free available;
- Sets aside the potential for sovereignty disputes between Treaty parties by providing that no activities will enhance or diminish previously asserted positions with respect to territorial claims, provides that no new or enlarged claims can be made, and makes rules relating to jurisdiction;
- Claims can be made, and makes rules relating to jurisdiction;
- Prohibits nuclear explosions and the disposal of radioactive waste;
- provides for inspection by observers, designated by any party, of ships, stations and equipment in Antarctica to ensure the observance of, and compliance with, the Treaty;
- requires parties to give advance notice of their expeditions; provides for the parties to meet periodically to discuss measures to further the objectives of the Treaty; and
puts in place a dispute settlement procedure and a mechanism by which the Treaty can be modified.
- The Treaty System includes the recommendations, measures, decisions and resolutions of the Consultative Meetings relating to matters such as:
- Scientific cooperation;
- protection of the Antarctic environment;
- conservation of plants and animals;
- preservation of historic sites;
- designation and management of protected areas;
- management of tourism;
- information exchange;
- collection of meteorological data;
- hydrographic charting;
- logistic cooperation; and
communications and safety.
- Dakshin Gangotri was the first Indian scientific research base station established in Antarctica, as a part of the Indian Antarctic Program.
- Located at a distance of 2,500 kilometres from the South Pole, it was established during the third
Indian expedition to Antarctica in 1983/84. This was the first time an Indian team spent a winter in Antarctica to carry out scientific work.
- Maitri is India’s second permanent research station in Antarctica.
- It was built and finished in 1989, shortly before the first station Dakshin Gangotri was buried in ice and abandoned in 1990/91.
Maitri is situated on the rocky mountainous region called Schirmacher Oasis. India also built a freshwater lake around Maitri known as Lake Priyadarshini.
- Bharti, India’s latest research station operation since 2012, has been constructed using 134 recycled shipping containers, to help researchers work in safety despite the harsh weather. It is
- India’s first committed research facility and is located about 3000 km east of Maitri.
- Bharti made India an elite member of the club of nine nations that have multiple stations in the region.
The research station can accommodate 25 scientists, saving them from the outdoors where temperatures range from -89 degrees Celsius in winter to -25 degrees Celsius in summer.
- In 2008, India commissioned the Sagar Nidhi, the pride of the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), for research.
- An ice class vessel, it can cut through thin ice of 40 cm depth and is the first Indian vessel to navigate Antarctic waters.
- The ship is the first of its kind in the country and has been used several times for the launch and retrieval of remotely operable vehicle (ROV) and the deep-sea nodule mining system, as well as for tsunami studies.
India is expanding its infrastructure development in Antarctica. The government is rebuilding its station, Maitri, to make it bigger and last for at least 30 years.