The act aims to protect the Antarctic environment and the dependent associated ecosystem
The act is known as the Indian Antarctic Act, it was passed on the 6th day of august 2022. The act aims to protect the environment of the Antarctic or all islands south of 60 degrees South Latitude, including their ice shelves. It was passed in line with the Antarctic Treaty which was signed in 1959 in Washington D.C., India signed the Antarctic Treaty on the 19th day of August 1983 and received consultative status on the 12th day of September 1983.
The Antarctic treaty was signed at the height of the cold war as there was growing consensus that the Antarctic having no native humans of its own should be preserved for scientific purposes only. The treaty was signed by only 12 countries at first but now contains a total of 56 parties. India also signed the treaty in 1983 and was sending expeditions since 1981 thus it was important for India to establish legislation to regulate its activities in the region. There are 28 countries that currently have some kind of legislation on Antarctica.
Section 4 of the act restricts the entrance of people into the region of Antarctica without a permit or written approval. No permit shall be required in the case of a person who is travelling through, on or above the high seas, to an immediate destination outside Antarctica.
Section 7 of the act prohibits drilling or excavating for mineral resources, collecting any samples of mineral resources or doing anything for the identification of natural resources except if the committee is satisfied it is for scientific purposes
Section 8,9,10 of the act prohibits any person from exposing any plant, living organism or microscopic organism native to the region
Section 17 of the act states no one should carry out nuclear explosions or dispose of any radioactive material in the region.
Section 23 of this act the Central Government shall, by notification, establish a Committee to be called the Committee on Antarctic Governance and Environmental Protection
Section 30 of the act states that the Central Government may designate any officer as an Inspector, having such qualifications and experience as may be prescribed, for performing the duties and exercising the powers of inspections in India under this Act.
Section 33 states that the generators of waste shall clean up the waste generated by them.
Section 41 states that Conducting a nuclear explosion in Antarctica will be punished with 20 years in jail, which may extend to life imprisonment, along with 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 seven years in jail and a fine between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 50 lakh.
The Antarctic Treaty(1959):
12 countries came together to sign the Antarctic treaty of 1959. The treaty mentions that Antarctica shall be used for purposes such as peace(Article 1), scientific investigation (Article 2) and International Scientific cooperation(Article 3). The treaty also mentions that there shall be no nuclear activity for any purpose in the region.
After the introduction of the act now the government can better control the activities in the Antarctic which were causing harm to the region. Previously due to a lack of legislation, any person could not be tried under Indian law but would have to be tried according to the international treaty which now has been corrected. Through this act if any company expands its area of work in the Antarctic with the permit given to them it will have to clean the waste created by them which will be better for the region. The government through this act will be able to control who is going to the Antarctic which is very important as if there were no regulations people might flock in huge numbers and harm the environment of the region.
In conclusion, the act is a very good step ahead although it was long awaited, it will lead to regulating in the region which is necessary if we want to protect the region. Overall, the Indian Antarctic Act represents a significant step forward in regulating human activities in the Antarctic and protecting its unique ecosystem.