The bill aims to strengthen India's interests in the Antarctic region

The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022, which seeks to have India's own national measures for conserving the Antarctic environment as well as the dependant and linked ecosystem, has been approved by Parliament.

The Bill, which was approved by the Lok Sabha on July 22, was cleared by the Rajya Sabha on Monday. This will aid in the effective and deliberate operations of the Indian Antarctic Program.

The Bill is pursuant to India's accession to the Antarctic Treaty, the Protocol on Environment Protection (Madrid Protocol) to the Antarctic Treaty, and the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, according to the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Science and Technology, the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Earth Sciences, and the MoS for Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy, and Space Jitendra Singh.

Singh emphasized that Bill's main aim is also to secure the demilitarization of the area, in addition to eliminating any mining or criminal operations there. Additionally, it seeks to prevent any nuclear explosions or tests in the area.

Singh said that the Bill provides a harmonious policy and regulatory framework for India’s Antarctic activities through well-established legal mechanisms and will help in efficient and elective operations of Indian Antarctic Programme.

The Bill would make it easier for India to take an active interest in managing the expanding Antarctic tourism industry and the sustainable development of fisheries resources in Antarctic waters. It will also help in increased international visibility, credibility of India in Polar governance leading to international collaboration and cooperation in scientific and logistics fields.

The Bill also proposed to set-up the Indian Antarctic Authority (IAA) under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, which shall be the apex decision making authority and shall facilitate programmes and activities permitted under the Bill. It shall provide a stable, transparent and accountable process for the sponsorship and supervision of Antarctic research and expeditions in addition to ensuring the protection and preservation of the Antarctic environment.

India has two operational research stations in Antarctica named Maitri (Commissioned in 1989) and Bharati (Commissioned in 2012). India has successfully launched 40 annual scientific expeditions to Antarctica till date.

With the Himadri station in Ny-Alesund, Svalbard, Arctic, India now belongs to the elite group of nations that have multiple research stations within the Polar Regions.
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