India Proposed Antarctic Bill in Lok Sabha. What is India’s proposed Antarctic Bill and How will it be helpful?
Nearly 40 years after India first signed the Antarctic Treaty which means India Proposed Antarctic Bill, the government has brought in a draft Indian Antarctic Bill, 2020. Earth Sciences Minister Dr. Jitender Singh tabled the draft Bill in Lok Sabha.
What is the Antarctica Bill?
The Antarctica Bill aims to regulate Antarctica’s travels and operations, as well as any possible issues that may occur among individuals who live there. It also includes penalties for certain significant infractions. Without permission or written authorization from a member nation, private trips and expeditions to Antarctica would be illegal if the bill becomes law.
• India officially joined the Treaty System in 1983 and is one of the 54 members of the Antarctic Agreement, which was formed in 1959. The legislation also establishes a framework for government personnel to investigate a vessel and undertake research facility inspections.
•The proposal also calls for the establishment of the Antarctic Eunu, which will be used to conserve the Antarctic ecosystem. The bill gives the Indian court system authority over Antarctica and establishes penalties for crimes committed on the territory by Indian nationals, foreign people who are part of Indian expeditions, or those who are in the vicinity of Indian research facilities. ‘
•The committee on Antarctic Governance and Environmental Protection is also established by the legislation.
• The bill outlaws mining, dredging, and other activities that endanger the region’s natural features.
• It prohibits the disposal of garbage in Antarctica by any individual, ship, or aircraft, as well as the deployment of nuclear weapons.
•The draft law is India’s first domestic law on the subject of Antarctica. Antarctica has already been covered by local laws in twenty-seven other nations. While India has been sending expeditions to Antarctica for the past 40 years, these expeditions have been circumscribed by international law.
Research stations set up by India in Antarctica:- 1. Dakshin Gangotri (1983-84), 2. Maitri (1988), 3. Bharati(2015)
What is the Antarctica Treaty?
The Soviet Union, United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Island, and The U.S were among the 12 countries that signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1959. The treaty later entered into force in 1961.
The Agreement applies to the region south of 60 degrees South latitude. The agreement’s goals are to demilitarise Antarctica and develop it as a region for peaceful research, as well as to lay any geographical sovereignty conflicts to rest, guaranteeing global cooperation.
The Antarctic Treaty now has 54 members, although only 29 countries have voting rights at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings, including India.
The Antarctic Treaty Protocol on Environmental Conservation was signed in 1991 and entered into force in 1998. Antarctica is designated as a “natural reserve dedicated to peace and science,” according to the treaty.
India Proposed Antarctic Bill – Prohibitions under the bill.
• The Bill makes it illegal to drill, dredge, excavate, or extract mineral resources, as well as to conduct anything that might lead to the discovery of such reserves – the only exception being scientific research with permission.
• Damage to native plants,
• trying to fly or land helicopters or operating ships that may
• disrupt normal activities of birds and seals,
• using firearms that may disturb animal habitat,
• removing soil or biological substance native to Antarctica,
• engaging in any exercise that may negatively impact birds and
• animal habitat, and killing,
• injuring, or capturing any bird or animal are all explicitly prohibited.
Penalty system:- The draft Bill proposes the setting up of a separate designated court to try crimes committed in Antarctica. The bill also includes harsh penalties, with the minimum penalty ranging from one to 2 years in jail and a fine of Rs 10-50 lakh.
The exploitation of any Antarctic species or transfer of an exotiç breed to the region can result in a seven-year prison term and a penalty of Rs 50 lakh. For dumping of nuclear waste or a nuclear explosion, the imprisonment can range between 20 years to life imprisonment with a fine of Rs 50 crore.