indian research station in antarctica

Indian Research Station in Antarctica | Indian Antarctica Bill 2022

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Indian Research Station in Antarctica – This article will discuss the Indian Antarctica Bill 2022, along with the presence of India in Antarctica. Some of the basic features, including the physical features of this frozen continent, are also discussed. A brief about The Antarctic Treaty, the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, and the Indian Antarctic Program is also covered.

The Lok Sabha approved the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022, which was tabled on 1 April 2022. The Bill intends to implement the Antarctic Treaty, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and the Antarctic Treaty Protocol on Environmental Protection. It also aims to conserve the Antarctic ecosystem and govern activity in the region.

What is the Antarctic Bill?

It is India’s first domestic legislation pertaining to Antarctica. It aims to expand the application of domestic laws to Indian research facilities in the Antarctic region.

Indian Research Station in Antarctica – India maintains two operational research stations in the Antarctic, Maitri and Bharti, where scientists are doing research. India, with the Himadri station in Ny-Alesund, Svalbard, Arctic, is among the few countries operating numerous research stations in the Polar Regions.

For the past four decades, India has sent missions to Antarctica. These missions, however, are limited by international law.

  • The Antarctica Bill 2022 thus establishes a comprehensive set of Antarctica regulations for scientific missions as well as people, corporations, and travellers.
  • The Bill intends to prohibit Indian expeditions to Antarctica without a permit or written authorisation from another party to the Antarctic Treaty, to require inspection by an officer nominated by the government, and impose penalties for violating specified legislative requirements.
  • It also aims to establish a fund for the welfare of Antarctic research and the conservation of the frozen Continent’s land.
  • The Antarctic Bill will expand Indian courts’ jurisdiction to Antarctica for crimes committed on the Continent by Indian nationals or foreign people accompanying Indian expeditions.
  • The Bill prohibits an extensive list of actions on the Continent, including drilling, dredging, excavation or collection of mineral resources. It disallows flying or landing helicopters or operating vessels that can disturb the native animals.

UPSC PYQ

UPSC 2019. On 21st June, the Sun

  • (a) does not set below the horizon at the Arctic Circle
  • (b) does not set below the horizon at Antarctic Circle
  • (c) shines vertically overhead at noon on the Equator
  • (d) shines vertically overhead at the Tropic of Capricorn

UPSC GS1 – 2021. How do the melting of the Arctic ice and glaciers of the Antarctic differently affect the weather patterns and human activities on the Earth? Explain.

INDIAN ANTARCTIC BILL, 2022

Key features of the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022 

Applicability: The Bill’s rules will apply to any person, vessel, or aircraft participating in an Indian expedition to Antarctica with permission given under the Bill. Antarctica includes the following regions: 

  1. the Continent of Antarctica, including its ice shelves and any portions of the continental shelf next to it;
  2. all islands (including their ice shelves), sea, and air space south of 60° S latitude.

Central Committee: The central government will form the Antarctic Governance and Environmental Protection Committee. The Secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences will preside over the Committee. Ten members will be nominated from several Ministries and organisations, including defence, external affairs, the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, and the National Security Council Secretariat. The central government will also nominate two specialists from the Antarctic environment and geopolitics field.

The functions of the Committee include

  1. granting permits for various activities, 
  2. implementing and maintaining compliance with applicable international laws for the conservation of the Antarctic environment
  3. Receiving and assessing relevant information given by Treaty, Convention, and Protocol parties.
  4. Discuss fees/charges for Antarctica activities with other parties.

Need for the permit: A permit from the Committee or written authorisation from another Protocol party (other than India) will be necessary for a variety of activities, including:

  1. an Indian expedition to visit or stay in Antarctica.
  2. A person to go to or stay in an Indian station in Antarctica.
  3. ship or plane with an Indian registration to enter or stay in Antarctica.
  4. A person or vessel who drills, dredges, or excavates for mineral resources or collects mineral resource samples.
  5. actions that may endanger native species
  6. Waste dumping in Antarctica by a person, vessel, or aircraft.

Before the Committee issues a permit, the applicant must conduct an environmental impact assessment of the proposed activity. Furthermore, permission cannot be issued unless the Committee has devised a waste management strategy for the Expedition.

Prohibited activities: Certain operations in Antarctica are prohibited under the Bill, including: 

  1. Nuclear detonation or radioactive waste disposal.
  2. Non-sterile soil introduction.
  3. The release of waste, plastic, or other toxic substances into the water.

Offences and penalties: The Bill outlines consequences for violating its terms. For example, executing a nuclear explosion in Antarctica will result in a 20-year prison sentence, which may be extended to life imprisonment, and a fine of at least Rs 50 crore. Drilling for mineral resources or importing non-native animals or plants into Antarctica without a licence is punishable by imprisonment for up to seven years and a fine ranging from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 50 lakh. The central government may appoint one or more Sessions Courts as the Designated Court under the Bill and designate its territorial authority to try activities punishable under the Bill. 

The Antarctica Bill 2022 intends to implement the Antarctic Treaty, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and the Antarctic Treaty Protocol on Environmental Protection. So let’s learn about the Antarctica treaty.


indian research station in antarctica
indian research station in antarctica

The Main international treaty guiding all the nations in Antartica is called the Antartica Treaty

The Antarctic Treaty

  • All of the land and ice shelves south of 60°S are called Antarctica.
  • The Antarctic Treaty was first signed by 12 countries on 1 December 1959 in Washington, D.C. Since then, the Treaty has been signed by 42 more countries. There are 54 states that have signed the Treaty.
  • India signed the Antarctic Treaty on 19 August 1983, and on 12 September 1983, it became a consultative party.
  • On 20 May 1980, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources was signed in Canberra to protect and preserve the Antarctic environment and, in particular, to protect and preserve Antarctica’s marine living resources. India joined the Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources after ratifying the Convention on 17 June 1985.

Now learn about the Antartica in brief along with its physical features.

Antarctica

Antarctica is a frozen continent that is south of India and west of the Indian Ocean. It literally means “across from the Arctic.” It is the Continent that is the farthest south and is completely inside the Antarctic Circle, which goes around the South Pole. It is separated from the rest of the world by the cold waters of the Southern Ocean, which is made up of the southern parts of the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans.

Antarctica is the fifth-largest Continent and covers more than 14 million square kilometres. The Continent is a high plateau that is frozen all year. There is no coastal plain on the Continent. It has mountain ranges, peaks, a rift valley, and volcanoes.

Physical Features of Antarctica

It has Two broad inlets, the Weddell Sea and the Ross Sea, and the Trans-Antarctic Mountains cross the entire Continent and divide the land into West Antarctica and East Antarctica. 

The Antarctic Peninsula points towards South America. It is the continuation of the Andes Mountains range. Mount Sidley and Mount Erebus is the first and second-highest volcano in Antarctica, respectively.

Antarctica is the only Continent that is always covered in snow and ice, so it is called the “white continent.” In some places, its ice cap is 4,000 metres deep. Between the mountain ranges, there are dry, windy, frozen, and empty valleys.


Indian Research Station in Antarctica

India’s presence in Antarctica

Dakshin Gangotri

Indian Research Station in Antarctica – Dakshin Gangotri was India’s first Antarctic research base station. India’s Antarctic programme included the station. It is approximately 2,500 kilometres south of the South Pole. Currently, Dakshin Gangotri serves as a supply depot and transit camp. The base is named after the same-named glacier.

During the third Indian Antarctic Expedition in 1983-84, the station was created. This was the first time an Indian team spent a winter in Antarctica conducting scientific research. A crew of 81 persons erected the station in eight weeks. The station was constructed at the end of January 1984 with the support of the Indian Army and celebrated Indian Republic Day on 26 January, together with the Soviets and East Germans.

The Dakshin Gangotri was abandoned in 1988-1989 after sinking through the ice. On 25 February 1990, the station was eventually deactivated and transformed into a supply base.

indian research station in antarctica
indian research station in antarctica

Maitri Research Center

Indian Research Station in Antarctica – The Maitri Research Center is the Indian Antarctic Program’s second permanent research site in Antarctica. The Indian Expedition, which arrived with a crew at the end of December 1984, was the first to begin work on the station. The first shelters were erected by the IV. Antarctic Expedition finished in 1989, just before the first station, Dakshin Gangotri, was buried in the ice and abandoned in 1990/91. Maitri is situated in Schirmacher Oasis’s rugged and hilly area. The Maitri Research Center is just 5 kilometres from Russia’s Novolasarevskaya station.

The station is equipped with cutting-edge technology for conducting research in a variety of fields. In the winter, it can house up to 25 people. A freshwater lake in front of the Maitri station filters water. The Blue Ice runway is around 10 kilometres distant. The airfield, which services Maitri Station and Novolasarevskaya, is administered by “Antarctic Logistics Center International” (ALCI).

Bharati Research Station

Indian Research Station in Antarctica – Bharati is a permanently staffed Antarctic research station. It is India’s third Antarctic research facility and one of two functioning Indian research stations, along with Maitri. The station has been operational since 18 March 2012. It is inhabited all year. There are 47 researchers and technicians in the winter and 72 in the summer. Since its completion, India has been one of nine countries with numerous stations inside the Southern Arctic Circle. Bharati’s research objective focuses on oceanic studies and the process of continental separation. It also permits studies to improve our existing knowledge of the Indian subcontinent’s geological past.


Let us now look at the coordinating body behind all of these initiatives.

National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research

In 1998, the Ministry of Earth Sciences created the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) as an independent research and development entity. It is situated in the state of Goa. It is in charge of the country’s research efforts in the Polar and Southern Oceans. It is the country’s nodal body for the planning, promotion, coordination, and implementation of all polar and southern ocean scientific research, as well as the accompanying logistical operations.

Its major responsibilities include:

  1. Management and maintenance of the Indian Research Station in Antarctica “Maitri” and “Bharati,” as well as the Indian Arctic Research Base “Himadri.”
  2. Management of the Ministry’s research vessel ORV Sagar Kanya and other Ministry-chartered research vessels.

Finally learn about the main policy of India which binds all these intiatives and Indian Research Station in Antarctica together and guides them.

Indian Antarctic Program

Since its inception in 1981, the Indian Antarctic programme has performed 40 scientific missions and established three Indian Research Station in Antarctica, dubbed DakshinGangotri (1983), Maitri (1988), and Bharati (2012). Maitri and Bharati are now fully functional. The Indian Antarctic programme is managed by the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa, an independent agency under the Ministry of Earth Sciences. On 20 November 2021, India successfully launched the 41st Scientific Expedition to Antarctica.

In conclusion, the Indian research station in Antarctica is a valuable resource for India. It allows India to conduct important research in a hostile environment, and it also gives India a presence in Antarctica. The station is also a valuable training ground for Indian scientists and engineers. India should continue to support and expand its research station in Antarctica.

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