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  • Context (PIB): GoI intends to operationalise a new research station in East Antarctica near the existing research base Maitri. The research station is expected to be complete by January 2029.

India’s Research Stations in Antarctica

  • The first permanent research station was “Dakshin Gangotri” in 1983 (now abandoned).
  • Maitri: India’s second permanent research station operational since 1988. Lake Priyadarshini, a freshwater lake, was built by India around Maitri.
  • Bharati: Operational since 2012, it is India’s first committed research facility located 3000 km east of Maitri.

India Antarctica Programme

  • It is a scientific research and exploration program under the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa.
  • It started in 1981 when the 1st Indian expedition to Antarctica was made.

India Antarctica Act 2022

  • Applicability: To any person, vessel, or aircraft that is a part of an Indian expedition to Antarctica under a permit issued under the Act.
  • The Act provides for a Central Committee on Antarctica Governance and Environmental Protection.
    • The Central Government would establish it under the administrative control of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).
    • It would ensure compliance with international laws to protect the Antarctica environment.
  • The Act provides for penalties for contravention of the Act’s provisions. E.g., 20-year imprisonment for conducting a nuclear explosion in Antarctica.
  • It provides for the Antarctica Fund for the welfare of research work and protection of Antarctica.
  • It also provides for designated courts and inspection teams to carry out inspections in Antarctica, etc.

Activities Prohibited

  • Nuclear explosion/disposal of radioactive wastes.
  • Introduction of non-sterile soil/any specified substances and products.
  • Discharge of garbage, plastic, or substances into the sea, which is harmful to the marine environment.
  • Damage, destroy, or remove any historic site or monument.

Permit needed

  • An Indian expedition to enter/remain in Antarctica.
  • A person, vessel/aircraft registered in India to enter/remain in Antarctica.
  • A person/vessel to drill, dredge, excavate for mineral resources, or collect samples of mineral resources.
  • Activities that may harm native species.
  • Waste disposal by a person, vessel or aircraft in Antarctica.

Antarctica Treaty

  • It laid the foundation of a rules-based international order for a continent without a permanent population.
  • It remains the only single treaty that governs a whole continent.
  • It was signed on 1st December 1959 (entered into force in 1961) in Washington.
  • Initially, 12 member parties; currently, it has 54 members. India became a member of this treaty in 1983.
  • Headquarters: Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • The treaty declares the continent as the world’s 1st nuclear-weapon-free zone to be preserved for scientific exploration.

Provisions

  • Application of the treaty: All areas south of latitude 60°. It excludes the high seas, which come under international law.
  • The treaty provides for the use of the continent only for peaceful purposes, including promoting the freedom of scientific research.
  • It neutralises territorial sovereignty, limiting any new claim or enlarging the existing claim.
  • It forbids all contracting parties from establishing military bases, carrying on military manoeuvres, testing any weapons (including nuclear weapons), or disposing of radioactive wastes in the area.
  • Dispute settlement by the International Court of Justice if they cannot be settled by peaceful negotiation or arbitration by the involved parties.

Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctica Treaty

  • Also known as Antarctica-Environmental Protocol or the Madrid Protocol, it was signed in 1991 (entered into force in 1998) as part of the Antarctica Treaty System.
  • It prohibits mining, requires environmental impact assessments for new activities, and designates the continent as a natural reserve.

Convention on the Conservation of Antarctica Marine Living Resources

  • Established in 1982 as a part of the Antarctica Treaty System.
  • Objective: To preserve marine life and environmental integrity in and near the Antarctic region.

Antarctica Region

  • It is the world’s southernmost and fifth-largest continent.
  • It is divided into 2 parts: East Antarctica (Largest) and West Antarctica.
  • Major geographical features: Ross Sea, Weddell Sea.
  • Climate: It is the world’s driest, windiest, coldest, and iciest continent.
  • Jurisdiction: It is considered a Global Common and does not come under the jurisdiction of any single Nation/Government.
  • It does not have any native population.
  • Its Continental ice sheet represents about 90% of the world’s ice and 80% of its fresh water.
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