The Union Cabinet is learnt to have approved a draft legislation to provide a regulatory framework for India’s research activities in Antarctica and protect the environment in the icy continent.
The Indian Antarctica Bill, piloted by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, is also expected to help India fulfil its obligations under the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources of 1982 and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty of 1998.
The bill is likely to be introduced in the ongoing Budget Session of Parliament.
The Indian Antarctic programme, which began in 1981, has completed 40 scientific expeditions and built three permanent research base stations in Antarctica — Dakshin Gangotri (1983), Maitri (1988) and Bharati (2012).
Currently, Maitri and Bharati are fully operational.
India also plans to build another research facility to replace Maitri, which has outlived its life and structural integrity.
The Ministry of Earth Sciences recently told a parliamentary committee that the Maitri research facility was much compromised and needed immediate replacements.
It had said various international committees had said the facility was not environment friendly.
The ministry had said efforts were on to upgrade the Maitri research facility.
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