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Recalling India’s Antarctica activities

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Science and Technology


Source: The Hindu

Context: Antarctica Bill 2022 was passed

Direction: This was already discussed in the  Previous Article, 1-2 points extra have been added from Jai Ram Ramesh’s article.

The Antarctic treaty (signed in 1959 and implemented in 1961) made it mandatory for the 54 signatory countries to specific laws governing territories on which their stations are located. India signed the treaty in 1983 and therefore a law was needed to preserve the pristine Antarctic environment and ocean around it.

Initially, India was left out of 1959’s Antarctica Treaty, but it made a maiden voyage in 1982 (Under Operation Gangotri)

Key features of the bill:

  • Applicability: It will apply to any person, foreigners, corporations, firms, vessels or aircraft that is a part of an Indian expedition to Antarctica.
  • Central Committee: 10 members ( to be nominated from various ministries) + two experts (on the Antarctic) + chairman (Secretary of the Ministry of Earth Science)
    • It will give permits, ensure compliance and review information provided by parties to the treaty.
    • Private tours and expeditions to Antarctica would be prohibited without a permit or written authorisation by a Member country.
    • Permit can be granted only after the environmental impact assessment and waste management plan have been prepared.
  • Prohibited activities: The Bill prohibits certain activities in Antarctica including
    • nuclear explosion or disposal of radioactive wastes
    • introduction of non-sterile soil
    • discharge of garbage, plastic or other substance into the sea which is harmful to the marine environment.
  • Offences and penalties (extends the jurisdiction of Indian courts to Antarctica) :
    • Conducting a nuclear explosion in Antarctica will be punishable with an imprisonment of 20 years which may extend to life imprisonment and a fine of at least Rs 50 crore.
    • Drilling for mineral resources or introducing non-native animals or plants in Antarctica without a permit will be punishable with imprisonment of up to seven years and a fine between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 50 lakh.
    • The central government may notify one or more Sessions Courts to be the Designated Court under the Bill and specify its territorial jurisdiction to try offences punishable under the Bill.
  • Antarctic Fund: For the welfare of Antarctic research work and the protection of the Antarctic environment.
  • Establishes a ‘Committee on Antarctic Governance and Environmental Protection.’ 


Issues remaining:

The issue of a polar research vessel still needs to be addressed immediately. So far, India has been chartering such ships from countries like Russia and Norway while China has raced ahead and has two of its own.

What is needed:

  • The acquisition of a vessel with ice-breaking and other technological capabilities on a permanent basis for is a logical next step to the passage of the Bill
  • Revamp of the Old Maitri research station
  • The polar research vessel will also be required as India expands its association with and involvement in the Arctic as well.


India’s Antarctic Programme

  • Dakshin Gangotri: It was first Indian scientific research base station (now just a supply base)
  • Maitri (finished in 1989):
    Situated near Schirmacher Oasis(India has also built a freshwater lake around it called Lake Priyadarshini)
  • Bharti (2012): research facility
  • Sagar Nidhi (2008): It is first Indian vesselto navigate Antarctic waters.

Insta Link

India and the Arctic

Mains Link

Q. Throw light on the Indian interests in the Antarctic region. Analyze the role that Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022 can play in to protecting the Antarctic environment and regulating activities in the region. (250 Words)

Prelims Link

The formation of the ozone hole in the Antarctic region has been a cause, of concern. What could be the reason for the formation of this hole?

(a) Presence of prominent tropospheric turbulence; and inflow of chlorofluorocarbons

(b) Presence of prominent polar front and stratospheric clouds; and inflow of chlorofluorocarbons

(c) Absence of polar front and stratospheric clouds; and inflow of methane and chlorofluorocarbons.

(d) Increased temperature in the polar region due to global warming

Answer: B