Centre introduces Antarctica Bill

What is the News?

The Government of India has introduced the ‘Antarctica Bill’ in the Lok Sabha.

What was the need for the Antarctic Bill?

India had been a signatory to the Antarctica Treaty since 1983 and that encumbered India to specify a set of laws governing portions of the continent where it had its research bases.

India is also a signatory to treaties such as the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and the Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, both of which enjoin India to help preserve the pristine nature of Antarctica. 

Hence, to fulfil the objectives of these treaties, the Antarctic Bill 2022 has been brought.

What is the aim of the Antarctica Bill?

To have India’s own national measures for protecting the Antarctic environment and its dependent and associated ecosystem.

To regulate visits and activities to Antarctica, as well as potential disputes that may arise among those present on the continent. 

To prescribe penal provisions for certain serious violations.

What are the key provisions of the Antarctica Bill?

Applicability: The Bill will apply to Indians, foreign citizens, corporations, firms and joint ventures functioning in India, and any vessel or aircraft that is either Indian or part of an Indian expedition.

Indian expedition to Antarctica: The Bill prohibits Indian expedition to Antarctica or carrying out certain activities in Antarctica without a permit or the written authorisation of another party to the protocol.

Committee on Antarctic governance and Environmental protection: It has been set up to monitor, implement and ensure compliance with the relevant international laws, emissions standards and rules of protection. The committee is to be headed by the Secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences, as ex officio chairperson.

Prohibitory Activities: 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 is for scientific research with a permit.

There will also be a strict prohibition on damaging native plants, flying or landing helicopters or operating vessels that could disturb birds and seals, and removing soil or any biological material native to Antarctica.

The introduction of animals, birds, plants or microscopic organisms that are not native to Antarctica is also prohibited.

Provisions for Indian Tour Operators: The Bill provides for Indian tour operators to be able to operate in Antarctica after acquiring a permit.

Source: This post is based on the article Centre introduces Antarctica Billpublished in The Hindu on 2nd April 2022.

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