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Antarctic Parliament meets in Kochi: What’s on the table?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ATCM 46, Antarctic Treaty, India in Antarctica.

Mains level: NA

Why in the News?

  • India is hosting the 46th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM 46), also known as the Antarctic Parliament, from May 20-30 in Kochi.
    • The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, Goa, through the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), has organised the meeting, which will be attended by the 56 member countries of the Antarctic Treaty.

What is the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM)?

  • ATCM is the primary forum for discussing and coordinating activities related to the Antarctic Treaty System.
  • It was established under the Antarctic Treaty, which was signed in 1959 and entered into force in 1961.
    • It serves as the annual meeting of the parties to the Antarctic Treaty, known as Consultative Parties.
    • The ATCM adopts legally binding agreements, known as Antarctic Treaty Measures (ATMs), as well as non-binding recommendations on various matters.
    • Decisions within the ATCM are made by consensus among the Consultative Parties.
  • The ATCM established the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) as a subsidiary body to provide advice and recommendations on environmental matters.
  • India had last hosted the ATCM in New Delhi in 2007.

India’s Agenda at ATCM 46

  • During the Kochi meet, India will table its plan to construct Maitri II before the members.
  • Any new construction or initiative in Antarctica requires the ATCM’s approval.

About Antarctic Treaty

Signing and Entry into Force
  • Signed on December 1, 1959 at Washington DC.
  • Entered into force on June 23, 1961.
  • 12 Initial Countries: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the USSR, the UK, and the US.
Objective Ensure Antarctica remains exclusively for peaceful purposes, free from international discord.
Key Provisions
  • Art. I: Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only
  • Art. II: Freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica and cooperation
  • Art. III:  Scientific observations and results from Antarctica shall be exchanged and made freely available
Territorial Claims
  • Prohibits new territorial claims.
  • Preserves existing territorial sovereignty claims.
  • Prohibits testing of nuclear weapons.
  • Prohibits disposal of radioactive waste
Consultative Meetings
  • Antarctic Treaty Secretariat (ATS), established in 2004, serves as the administrative hub for the Antarctic Treaty System.
  • Annual Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCM) where member states discuss treaty implementation and cooperation.
Environmental Protection
  • Promotes protection of the Antarctic environment.
  • Prohibits activities causing pollution or environmental damage
Mineral Resource Exploitation
  • Bans mining activities until at least 2048.
  • Requires consensus for any review or modification
  • 54 parties as of 2024.
  • 29 Consultative Parties actively participate in decision-making.
  • 25 Non-Consultative Parties.
  • India ratified the treaty in 1983.
Madrid Protocol
  • Adopted in 1991.
  • Entered into force in 1998.
  • Strengthens environmental protection measures in Antarctic.

India in Antarctica

1. Governance:

  • Since 1983, India has been a consultative party to the Antarctic Treaty.
  • Of the 56 nations that are part of the Antarctic Treaty, 29 have consultative party status.
  • In this capacity, India votes and participates in all key decision-making processes regarding Antarctica.
  • India has undertaken scientific research in Antarctica since 1981.

2. Scientific Expeditions:

  • The first Indian Antarctica research station, Dakshin Gangotri, was set up in 1983, some 2,500 km from the South Pole in Queen Maud Land. The station operated till 1990.
  • In 1989, India set up its second Antarctica research station, Maitri, in the Schirmacher Oasis, a 3-km wide ice-free plateau with over 100 freshwater lakes.
  • It is still operational and located about 5 km from Russia’s Novolazarevskaya Station, and 90 km from Dakshin Gangotri.
  • In 2012, India inaugurated Bharati, its third Antarctica research station, located around 3,000 km east of Maitri, on the Prydz Bay coast.
  • Although the station focuses on oceanographic and geologic study, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) utilises it for receiving Indian Remote sensing Satellite (IRS) data.
  • India plans to open a new station, Maitri II, a few kilometres from the ageing Maitri station. Operations are set to begin by 2029.
  • In 2022, India enacted the Antarctic Act, reaffirming its commitment to the Antarctic Treaty.

About the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR)

  • NCPOR is an Indian research and development institution, situated in Vasco da Gama, Goa.
  • It is an autonomous institution of the Department of the Ministry of Earth Sciences, established in 1998.
  • It is responsible for scientific and strategic endeavors in the Polar Regions (Arctic and Antarctic), the Himalayas, and the Southern Ocean.


[2015] The term ‘IndARC’ sometimes seen in the news is the name of

(a) An indigenously developed radar system inducted into Indian Defence.

(b) India’s satellite to provide services to the countries of Indian Ocean Rim.

(c) A scientific establishment set up by India in Antarctic region.

(d) India’s underwater observatory to scientifically study the Arctic region.

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