Antarctic Bill: “The world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, famine and mass displacement that will fuel more conflict for decades.” – Barack Obama
This phrase is powerful and insightful for a country that has closed its eyes to the environment and climate for business and profit. Now is the time to pull ourselves together to fight a war in which everyone will be losing. A war against Nature that will only leave us paralysed for decades if don’t do anything about it. This is where the Indian Antarctic Bill comes in.
What is the Indian Antarctic Bill?
- The Bill’s most important provision is the extension of Indian courts’ jurisdiction to Antarctica.
- The Bill is a comprehensive list of legislation that addresses the investigation and conviction of crimes committed in the Arctic continent, with particular attention to environmental preservation and the region’s vulnerable animals.
- The bill establishes a complex permit procedure for every expedition or anyone wishing to go to the continent. These licences will be awarded by a committee that the Indian government will establish.
What is the need for the bill?
- According to the government, activity in Antarctica is expected to rise in the future years, necessitating the implementation of a local set of protocols.
- The Antarctic Treaty and related protocols, to which India is a member, will gain additional legitimacy as a result of domestic law.
- The Indian Antarctic Programme, which began in 1981 and is overseen by the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research in Goa, is a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional effort. So far, 40 Antarctic missions have been performed.
Prohibitions of the Indian Antarctic Bill:
- The Bill says it’s illegal to drill, dredge, excavate, or gather mineral resources, as well as to conduct anything that may lead to the discovery of such reserves – the sole exemption being a scientific study that has been given permission.
- Damage to native plants, flying or landing helicopters or operating vessels that may disturb birds or seals, using firearms that may disturb birds and animals, removing soil or biological material native to Antarctica, engaging in any activity that may adversely affect the habitat of birds and animals, and killing, injuring, or capturing any bird or animal are all prohibited under the bill.
- It is also forbidden to introduce animals, birds, plants, or microscopic creatures that are not native to Antarctica. A permit is required for the extraction of species for scientific research. Inspections can also be carried out by an official appointed by the national government.
Penalty as per the Indian Antarctic Bill:
- A separate designated court for offences committed in Antarctica is proposed in the draught Bill.
- The bill also includes harsh penalties, with the lowest punishment ranging from one to two years in jail and a fine of Rs 10-50 lakh. Extraction of any Antarctic species or introduction of an alien species to the continent can result in a seven-year jail sentence and a fine of Rs 50 lakh.
- The penalty for dumping nuclear waste or causing a nuclear explosion can vary from 20 years to life in jail, with a fine of Rs 50 crore.
Antarctica is already covered by domestic legislation in 27 nations like Japan, Canada, UK, USA, Germany, Italy, Russia and more. The government has introduced a proposed Indian Antarctic Bill, 2020, over 40 years after India initially joined the Antarctic Treaty. India joined the Antarctic Treaty (which has 54 signatories) in 1983 and was granted consultative status the following year.
What is Antarctic Treaty?
The treaty came into force in 1961 with 12 countries like Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, French Republic, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Union of South Africa, USSR, the UK of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the US of America. The Treaty’s goals are to demilitarise Antarctica and turn it into a zone for peaceful study, as well as to settle any territorial sovereignty problems and ensure international collaboration.
- Antarctica is of great scientific since it is the last surviving continent that is, for the most part, intact in its original state. As a result, this region must be preserved; otherwise, it will undoubtedly deteriorate in the same way that Mt Everest has been ruined as a result of too many humans trying to cross items off their bucket lists.
- Antarctica needs the Treaty to be protected from mining since coal, as well as oil and gas resources, are discovered in this area. Freshwater is another resource that might be targeted by countries with little rainfall.
- Without the Treaty, there would be no laws or order, and this beautiful corner of the globe, with its biodiversity and variety, would be wrecked, as it has been in places like Nepal.
Multiple threats to Nepal’s biodiversity include the loss and degradation of natural ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, and wetlands owing to the growth of towns, agriculture, and infrastructure; overexploitation; alien species invasion; and pollution of water bodies.
Fact: Antarctica is the only continent where human presence is not permanent. Permanent human settlements, on the other hand, exist where scientists and support workers dwell for a portion of the year on a rotational basis.
Remember, “Preservation of our environment is not a liberal or conservative challenge, it’s common sense.” – Ronald Reagan