HomePOPULARIndia Hosts Groundbreaking Discussions on Regulating Antarctic Tourism

India Hosts Groundbreaking Discussions on Regulating Antarctic Tourism

Kochi, Kerala, May 20, 2024 – India is set to play a pivotal role in facilitating the first-ever focused discussions on regulating tourism in Antarctica at the 46th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) and the 26th Meeting of the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP). These meetings, organized by the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) under the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) and the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat, are being held in Kochi from May 20 to May 30, 2024. The event features over 350 participants from nearly 40 nations.

The ATCM and CEP are high-level global annual meetings conducted in accordance with the Antarctic Treaty, a multilateral agreement of 56 Contracting Parties signed in 1959. These meetings address issues related to the science, policy, governance, management, preservation, and protection of Antarctica. The CEP, established under the Madrid Protocol in 1991, advises the ATCM on environmental protection and conservation in Antarctica.

India, a Consultative Party to the Antarctic Treaty since 1983, plays a crucial role in governing Antarctica’s scientific exploration and environmental protection. Along with 28 other Consultative Parties, India can propose and vote on decisions regarding administration, scientific research, environmental protection, and logistical cooperation. The Contracting and Consultative Parties are responsible for compliance with the Antarctic Treaty, promoting scientific research, and maintaining Antarctica as a zone of peace, free from military activity and territorial claims.

Union Minister Shri Kiren Rijiju of the Ministry of Earth Sciences inaugurated the meetings, emphasizing the significance of regulating tourism in Antarctica. Dr. M. Ravichandran, Secretary of MoES and Head of the Indian delegation, highlighted the importance of preserving Antarctica’s ecological integrity. “Antarctica represents one of the last frontiers of wilderness and scientific discovery. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that all activities, including research and tourism, are conducted in a manner that preserves its ecological integrity for future generations,” he said.

India, recognizing the pressing need to address the growing tourism activities in Antarctica, has proposed a comprehensive tourism policy anchored in precautionary principles. For the first time, a dedicated working group for regulating tourism in Antarctica has been established at the 46th ATCM, hosted by India.

Dr. Thamban Meloth, Director of NCPOR, mentioned that India’s legal framework to regulate its activities in Antarctica, including tourism, aligns with international standards through the Indian Antarctic Act enacted in 2022. He noted that this Act enables India to collaborate with other Antarctic Treaty nations to achieve common conservation goals.

India has a rich history of involvement in Antarctic research and international cooperation within the framework of the Antarctic Treaty System. This includes hosting the 10th SCAR conference in 2022 and contributing to the International Polar Year celebrations. India has also conducted numerous expeditions to the Southern Ocean and collaborated with Norway and the UK on Antarctic ice studies.

Dr. Vijay Kumar, Adviser at MoES and Head of the Host Country Secretariat, remarked on India’s significant role in Antarctic research and environmental stewardship over the past four decades. India will also facilitate discussions on the possible induction of Canada and Belarus as consultative parties to the Antarctic Treaty System.

Ambassador Pankaj Saran, elected as the Chairperson of the 46th ATCM and 26th CEP, emphasized the importance of collaborative efforts within the Antarctic Treaty System. “Through its leadership and commitment, India continues to play a key role in shaping the future of Antarctic governance,” he said.

The plenary session included an invited talk by Padma Bhushan Dr. Shailesh Nayak, former Secretary of MoES, on ‘Antarctica and Climate Change’. Shri Pavan Kapoor, Secretary (West) of the Ministry of External Affairs, also graced the event, highlighting India’s ongoing commitment to Antarctic exploration and conservation.

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