Antarctica is the world’s highest, driest, windiest and the coldest continent. The huge frozen landmass of Antarctica is vital for our survival. The Antarctic ice deflects some of the sun’s rays away from the Earth, keeping temperatures live-able. The ocean surrounding the continent also supports masses of the world’s sea life – including 15 species of whale and dolphin, and five species of penguin. The nutrient-rich waters encourage blooms of tiny plankton, the basis of the ocean food chain. Antarctica is one of the world’s most important ‘natural laboratories’ as it helps us understand global climate change and the unique archive locked in Antarctica’s thick ice sheet tells us what our planet’s climate has been like over almost a million years. Also, Antarctica is believed to hold rich deposits of oil and vital minerals.
The Antarctic is one of the world’s least disturbed places, but it’s increasingly vulnerable, especially to global warming and climate change. Even small-scale melting of Antarctic ice would raise global sea levels, and cause flooding around the world.
Almost 40 years ago, India signed the Antarctic Treaty which aimed at preserving the fragile Antarctic ecosystem. The Antarctic Bill is India’s first domestic law pertaining to Antarctica in India. In twenty-seven other countries, local laws already apply to Antarctica. The Indian Antarctic Bill has been brought to give effect to the Antarctic Treaty, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resource” and related protocols that India has signed as part of the larger framework of the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS).
The main provisions of the Bill are as follows:
The Bill is one of the many moves toward attaining its climate goals as India pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2070 at CoP26.It will play a big role in increasing the international visibility, and credibility of India in Polar governance leading to international collaboration and cooperation in scientific and logistics fields.