File Copyright Online - File mutual Divorce in Delhi - Online Legal Advice - Lawyers in India

The Legal Framework Of Antarctica: Human Invasion And Protection Of Antarctica

It was over six decades that the significant legal instrument of the Antarctic Treaty system was signed. Since then, no new legal framework have been drafted for the protection of Antarctic regions. Although Antarctica is the remote continent in the world, humans have had an impact there ever since the early 1800s. Throughout its history, human actions moulded and changed its ecosystem.

This Articleprioritizes Polar regions and its ecosystem, especially south poles 'Antarctica' and examines the provisions of international agreement the Antarctic Treaty and emphasis on the impact of human invasion in polar regions. Pressure on the Antarctic Treaty from geopolitics can only increase, as demand for the continent's stocks of fish and expected reserves of minerals rises with the depletion of resources elsewhere.

Formally, the treaty prohibits mining until at least 2048. But the protection that the agreement offers increasingly relies on good will as much as international law, as shown by the determination of some nations to continue fishing in Antarctic waters, in the face of proposals to ban the practice by establishing reserves and protected zones. In one sense, it's difficult for science to lament the unwelcome intrusion of international politics into its Antarctic playground.

The Antarctic treaty has stood for a long time and although it might look solid, it is fragile and vulnerable to special interests a bit like Antarctica itself Some 54 nations now contribute to the governance of Antarctica through the treaty system, and not as a democracy. This Articleexplores India's latest Legislation for the protection of the Antarctic Continent.

Our frozen poles play a vital role in regulating the world's climate. Hence, with such a crucial role in the heat distribution around our planet, the polar regions act as the cooling chambers of Earth. This smooth functionality will only continue if the atmosphere ocean-glaciers-sea ice interactions do not change. Human activities continue to cause unprecedented impacts upon the Antarctic habitats. The adoption of the Antarctic Treaty was in many ways a unique accomplishment in diplomacy and interstate cooperation for preserving Antarctica. Under the framework, the Antarctic continent was protected from military and commercial exploitation.

Polar Ecosystem:

Polar regions are regions of earth surrounding its geographical poles (North Poles and South Poles) are known as Polar regions. A Polar ecosystem is a complex and interconnected web of living organisms and their physical environment that exist in the polar regions of the earth, encompassing both the ARCTIC AND ANTARCTIC regions. It is a unique and fragile ecosystem that is characterised by extreme cold temperatures, long periods of darkness and daylight, and harsh and unpredictable climates.

Largely, unchanged for the last 15 million years, Antarctica is the driest, coldest, windiest continent. The average annual temperature is -55degree Celsius and wind speed had been recorded to reach 250 km per hour. 97.7 % of the continent of Antarctica is covered by permanent ice, covering a total surface area of almost 14 million square kilometers. This ice is distributed into two major ice sheets, the East Antarctic and the West Antarctic and over ice shelves , extending over the sea water.

The Polar system is defined by the presence of a variety of habitats, including sea ice, glaciers, ice shelves, tundra and open ocean. Despite the inhospital conditions the polar environment is home to a wide variety of animals that have adapted to survive in these extreme conditions. The polar ecosystem is also home to rich diversity of plant life, which play a critical role in the ecosystem by providing food and shelter for other organisms. Additionally, the polar regions are home to a variety of marine organisms, such as krill, phytoplankton and fishes, which form a base of the food chain and provide a vital source of food for large predators.

Unfortunately, the polar ecosystem is also highly vulnerable to environmental changes, including climate change and human activities such as pollution and overfishing. The delicate balance of the polar ecosystem can be easily disturbed, leading to cascading effects throughout the food chain and potentially catastrophic consequences for the entire ecosystem.

Major Threats To Antarctic Region:
  • Climate change:
    • Global warming, resulting in the warm of sea and loss of sea ice and land-based ice, this is the greatest long-term threat to the polar region.
    • Some ice shelves have already collapsed and ice slopes and glaciers have retreated.
    • Ocean acidification (from excess dissolved carbon dioxide) is already leading to the loss of some sea snails, which are thought to be an important part of the ocean's carbon cycle.
    • The breeding populations and territories of some penguin species have been altered.
  • Illegal Fishing:
    • The world's oceans are overfished, and investments into the kinds of boats and fishing gear needed for Antarctica are made, then it too suffers the same fate.
    • Fishing and Krill could be particularly significant as these are at the bottom of the many Antarctic food chains.

    • There are illegally fishing boats that ignore current regulations.
    • Southern fur seals and blue whales were hunted to the edge of extinction in Antarctica, while the fur seals have recovered well, the world's blue whale population is still only probably 2-5% of the pre-whaling numbers.

  • Invasive Species:
    • Organisms that are not native to Antarctica are transported there in many various ways, either on ships or attached as seeds to boots and clothing, some of which can now survive there due to climate change.
    • In particular, rats pose a potential threat to many ground-nesting bird species on Antarctica, which are particularly vulnerable because they have no native land-based predators to defend themselves against.
    • The Sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia was declared rat and mouse-free in early 2018, 250 years after they were first accidentally introduced by passing ships.
  • Pollution:
    • CFCs and other ozone depletors are responsible for the ozone hole that has appeared over Antarctica for over 40 years, chemicals produced thousands of miles away are found in Antarctic ice and in the bodies of wildlife.
    • Discarded equipment, chemicals, and oil can degrade the landscape.
    • Fishing nets, plastic, lines, hooks, etc. carried by the sea can result in great suffering or loss of life by birds, fish, and marine animals.
Exploration and exploitation of mineral reserves, oil and gas : Not currently economically viable, but as the need becomes greater and as technology advances, this will become an increasing threat. The Antarctic treaty bans all mining and mineral exploitation indefinitely, though this comes up for review in 2048.

Agreements Related To The Protection Of Polar Regions:

The Convention on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic treaty (MADRID, 1991):

A Part of the Antarctic Treaty called the Madrid Protocol (agreed on at an Antarctica Treaty Conference in Madrid) added to the original in 1991 requires that national Antarctic programmes clean up abandoned work sites and waste tips so long as the process of clean up does not cause greater adverse impacts or cause the removal of historic sites or monuments. This Environmental Protocol established the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) as an expert advisory body to provide advice and formulate recommendations to the (ATCM) in connections with the implementations of this Protocol.

The Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (CCAS):
This Convention was signed in London and entered force in 1978. This was the first convention which was established for the protections of Antarctic flora and fauna importantly, Seals.

The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR):
This convention was signed in Canberra and came into force in 1982. It provides for the conservation and rational use of krill, finfish and other marine living resources in the convention area. An important feature of CCLAMR is the ecosystem approach to conservation must be taken into account in managing the harvesting of marine resources. Although CCAS and CCLAMR are independent agreements, they contain provisions committing their Parties to essential parts of the Antarctic treaty such as ArticleIV which deals with the legal status of territorial claims.

Formation Of Antarctic Treaty 1959:
In the 1950s, seven countries -Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom - claimed territorial sovereignty over the areas that they discovered on the continent. Some of these territorial claims overlapped and thus, conflicts ensued. After that, United states, The Soviet Union, Belgium, Japan and South Africa also explored Antarctica but did not claim sovereignty over any area of the continent. After, during the International Geophysical year of 1957 - 1958 IGY, 12 countries Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, The United states, The United kingdom, the Soviet Union, Belgium, Japan and South Africa met and agreed that their political and legal differences would not interfere with the shared goal of scientific research and discovery on the continent. This agreement helped to form the Antarctic treaty.

Currently, 54 nations have agreed to the Antarctic treaty, but only 29 control the decision making process. These 29 are the "Consultative parties"includes original 12 Signatories. Only the consultative Parties have votes at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCM), every decision requires a consensus. Also nations who wish to conduct scientific research can apply to become Consultative Parties.

Provisions Of Antarctic Treaty:
The Treaty obligates parties to use ANTARCTICA for peaceful purposes only. Any measures of a military nature, including testing of any type of weapons, are prohibited; any nuclear explosions in Antarctica and the disposal there of radioactive waste material are prohibited.

The 14 Articles of the treaty are as follows:
  • Antarctic shall be used for peaceful purposes only; any military measures, with the exception of use of military assets for scientific research or any other peaceful purpose, are prohibited.
  • Freedom of scientific of investigation in Antarctic and cooperation as applied during IGY shall continue.
  • Plans for scientific programmes and the observation and results thereof shall be freely exchanged; scientists may be exchanged between expeditions.
  • All national claims are held static from the date of signature. No future activity if any country during the life of the Treaty can affect the status quo on any rights or claims to territorial sovereignty.
  • Nuclear explosions and disposal of radioactive waste are prohibited in Antarctica.
  • The provisions of the treaty applies to the area south of 60o south latitude.
  • Any Contracting party may appoint observers. They shall have complete freedom of access at any time to any area of Antarctic, with the right to inspect any other nation's buildings, installations, equipment, ships, or aircraft or to carry out aerial observations.
  • Regular consultative meetings of the active signatory nations shall be held.
  • Contracting parties shall ensure that no activity contrary to the treaty is carried out.
  • Any dispute between contracting parties shall be resolved by peaceful negotiation, in the last resort by the international court of justice.
  • The treaty shall remain in force for a minimum of 30 years.
  • These articles provide the legal details of ratification and deposit.

The following provisions of Antarctic treaty:
  • Article I: Antarctica for Peaceful Purposes
    Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only. Among other things, all military measures are prohibited, such as the establishment of military bases and fortifications, the carrying out of military operations, and the testing of all kinds of weapons. This agreement does not prevent the use of military personnel or equipment for scientific research or other peaceful purposes.
  • Article II: Freedom of Scientific Investigation to Continue
    The freedom of scientific research in Antarctica carried out during the year of IGY year continue in accordance with this treaty.
  • Article III: Plans and Results to be Exchanged
    1. In order to promote international cooperation in scientific investigation, the parties agree that information on plans for Antarctic research programs would be exchanged.
    2. Research personnel would be transferred to expeditions and stations.
    3. Research observations and results are freely exchanged between parties.
  • Article V: Nuclear Explosions are Prohibited
    All nuclear explosions and disposal of radioactive waste in the Antarctic region are prohibited under this article, including the use of nuclear energy such as nuclear explosions and disposal of radioactive waste.
  • Article VI: Areas Covered by the Treaty
    The provisions of the treaty shall apply to the areas including all ice shelves.
  • Article VII: Free Access for Observation and Inspection
    To promote this treaty's objectives, every contracting party participates in the meetings. The observers from the nationals of the contracting party are designated to carry out the inspection. The observer has complete freedom to access all areas of Antarctica at any time.
  • Article VIII: Personnel under Jurisdiction of Their Own States
    This article emphasizes the jurisdiction of the contracting parties and the members of the staff accompanying them are subject to the jurisdiction of the contracting party. Any dispute regarding the exercise of jurisdiction in Antarctica should be consulted together with mutually acceptable solutions.
  • Article IX: Treaty States to Meet Periodically
    Representatives of contracting treaties meet at the city of Canberra within 2 months after the treaty comes into force, for the purpose of exchanging information, consulting on matters of common interest of Antarctica, and demonstrating their interest over Antarctica.
  • Article X: Discouraging Activities Contrary to the Principles of the Treaty
    Measures are taken to discourage activities that are contrary to the principles of the treaty.
  • Article XI: Settlement of Disputes
    If any dispute arises between the contracting parties, then they should consult the matter among themselves with view to having it resolved by the negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement or other peaceful means of their choice. Any dispute not resolved by these means, with the consent of parties , they can refer the matters to the International court.
  • Article XII: Review of Treaty Possible After 30 Years
    This Articleemphasizes any modification or amendment to the treaty with the consultation of representatives of contracting parties.
  • Article XIII: Ratification and Accession
    The treaty is subject to ratification or accession by the signatory states. Instruments of ratification or accession are deposited with the government of the United States of America, designated as the depository government as per this article.
  • Article XIV: United States as the Repository
    Under this the article, the treaty clearly states that the United State as a Repository.

In these fourteen articles, the treaty stipulates that Antarctica should be used exclusively for peaceful purposes, military activities, such as establishment of military bases or weapons testing, are specifically prohibited; guarantees continued freedom to conduct scientific research, as enjoyed during the IGY; promotes international scientific cooperation including the exchange of research plans and personnel, and requires that results of research be made freely available; sets aside the potential for sovereignty disputes between Treaty parties by providing that no activities will enhance or diminish previously asserted positions with respect to territorial claims, provides that no new or enlarged claims can be made, and make rules relating to jurisdiction.

This treaty emphasis on prohibitions nuclear explosions and the disposal of radioactive waste; provides for inspection by observers, designated by any party, of ships, stations and equipment in Antarctica to ensure the observance of compliance with the treaty; requires parties to give advance notice of their expeditions; provides for the parties to meet periodically to discuss measures to further the objectives of the treaty; and puts in place a dispute settlement procedure and a mechanisms by which the treaty can be modified.

The Antarctic Treaty System:

The Antarctic treaty system comprises the treaty itself and a number of related agreements. It also includes a range of organisations that contribute to the work of the decision � making forums. In addition to the related agreements, the treaty system includes the recommendations, measures, decisions and resolutions of the consultative meetings relating to matters such as:
  • Scientific cooperation;
  • Protection of the Antarctic environment;
  • Conservation of plants and animals;
  • Preservation of historic sites;
  • Designation and management of protected areas;
  • Management of tourism;
  • Information exchange;
  • Collection of meteorological data;
  • Hydrographic charting;
  • Logistic cooperation;
  • Communications and safety.

Related Organizations:
Apart from the legal instruments and measures outlined above, a number of specialised bodies assist the treaty parties conduct their work. Specific tasks may be directed to these bodies, or they may be invited to provide observers or experts to participate in treaty forums.

The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) coordinates Antarctic research programs and encourages scientific implications of operational proposals of the treaty meetings.

The Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs comprises the heads of each of the national Antarctic operating Agencies. COMNAP meets annually to exchange logistic information, encourage cooperation and develop advice to the treaty parties on a range of practical matters.

The Antarctic Treaty parties have also developed a close relationship with environmental inter - governmental and non - governmental organisations that represent the broader community interests in conservation. Organisations such as the International union for the Conservation of Nature, the United Nations Environment programme and the Antarctic and southern ocean coalition are also invited to the treaty meetings as experts.

Bodies with technical expertise relevant to the treaty discussions also participate. They include the International Hydrographic Organisations, the World Meteorological Organisation and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

The International Association of Antarctic tour operators is an industry body representing the interests of the growing tourist trade in the Antarctic. Many tour operators are affiliated with IAATO, which also provides experts to the annual treaty meetings.

India's Role In Protecting Antarctica:

The first Antarctic expedition of India was initiated in the year of 1981. India has a total of 3 research stations in Antarctica. India was one of the first "Developing" nations to initiate Antarctic Exploration. Indian scientists commissioned India's first Antarctic Research station in the year of 1983 named Dakshin Gangotri. It was even before nations like China, Finland, Spain commissioned their bases on Antarctica. India's station, Dakshin Gangotri was built using all Indian equipment and was completely powered by solar energy.

However, Dakshin Gangotri research station got submerged because of melting ice plates in 1989, probably due to Global warming. Dakshin Gangotri research station was used only during summer in the southern hemisphere. It didn't have all year round supporting capabilities. The second research station of India named Maitri was commissioned in the year of 1990. This second research station is working all year round. India's third and the largest research station named Bharati in Antarctica started its operation in the year of 2012.

Even though India has maintained a presence in Antarctica since 1983, it was not until last year (2022) that the Indian Parliament passed a national law for protection of the Antarctic environment and its biological diversity. THE INDIAN ANTARCTIC ACT, 2022, aims to provide national measures that protect the Antarctic environment and its dependent and associated ecosystems, thereby giving effect to the Antarctic Treaty , the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctica Marine Living Resources, and the Madrid Protocol. As per this law, the term 'Antarctic Environment' incorporates the ecosystems dependent-on and associated �with the Antarctic environment, the intrinsic value of its wilderness and aesthetic, and its values as a area for the conduct of scientific research or research that is essential to understand the global environment, the climate and the composition of the atmosphere.

ICJ Cases:

Australia vs Japan 2014

The case against Japan at the ICJ was brought by Australia with NewZealand. On 31st march 2014, the International Court of Justice(ICJ) ruled that Japan's whaling activities in Antarctica did not comply with ArticleVIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of whaling (ICRW), which permits whaling for scientific purposes. The Proceedings were heard in June and July 2013 and at the core of Australia argument was that Japan ongoing programmee, Known as JARPAII, was not scientific but commercial in purpose.

So, the court largely side stepped this in its ruling, concluding that although Japan's aims were 'Broadly scientific' , there were a lack of justification for large scale sampling, especially for the annual quota of 850 Antarctic minkle whales. The court also noted the open minded time frame for JARPAII, its very limited scientific outputs to date and its failure to consider non lethal alt�natives to killing whales for research. These observations by the ICJ not only provided the foundation for finding that JARPAII was illegal but also established , with all its authority, issues that should be taken in account in other whale killings intending to be covered by ArticleVIII.

United Kingdom vs Chile 1955

On May 4th 1955, the United Kingdom filed before the International Court of Justice(ICJ) an application instituting proceedings against Chile, regarding disputes concerning sovereignty over certain lands of Antarctica. In that application, the United Kingdom stated that it accepted the jurisdiction of the court and that, although to its knowledge Chile had not yet done the same, the country was legally entitled to do so. By letter dated July 15th 1955, Chile made it clear that it deemed the United Kingdom 's application without legal basis and the court lacked jurisdiction to hear this matter. In these circumstances, the court found that it could not hear the case and issued an order for removal from the Register on march 16th 1956.

Under the treaty, each party has enjoyed peaceful co-operation and freedom of scientific research. Despite the 1991, Madrid Protocol's 50 year moratorium placed on the exploitation of Antarctica's natural resources future economic and population pressures could pose significant environmental threat to the Continent of Antarctica. If Antarctica is indeed eventually opened for oil exploration activities, which many it will be, the potential for oil pollution occurrences such as oil tanker spills, the dumping of waste oil, natural oil seeps, well blowouts will rise substantially.

These are the rising issues in antarctica even though the legal framework i.e, Antarctic treaty as it matures, it has become recognised as one of the most successful sets of international agreements, setting an example of peaceful cooperation for the rest of the world. As the environmental regime, it is unique - an entire continent, which is essentially undisturbed, will remain protected because of the commitment and co-operation of the treaty parties.

Law Article in India

Ask A Lawyers

You May Like

Legal Question & Answers

Lawyers in India - Search By City

Copyright Filing
Online Copyright Registration


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi Mutual Consent Divorce is the Simplest Way to Obtain a D...

Increased Age For Girls Marriage


It is hoped that the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which intends to inc...

Facade of Social Media


One may very easily get absorbed in the lives of others as one scrolls through a Facebook news ...

Section 482 CrPc - Quashing Of FIR: Guid...


The Inherent power under Section 482 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (37th Chapter of t...

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India: A...


The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a concept that proposes the unification of personal laws across...

Role Of Artificial Intelligence In Legal...


Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing various sectors of the economy, and the legal i...

Lawyers Registration
Lawyers Membership - Get Clients Online

File caveat In Supreme Court Instantly