Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM)

Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM)


India successfully concluded the 46th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM-46) and the 26th Committee on Environmental Protection (CEP-26) in Kochi, Kerala.


GS-3 (Science and Technology)


  • The ATCM-46, held under the theme of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, a Sanskrit phrase meaning “one Earth, one family, one future,” resonated deeply with the principles of the Antarctic Treaty System.
  • This system promotes peace, scientific cooperation, and the preservation of Antarctica for mankind.
  • Dr. M. Ravichandran, Secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) and head of the Indian delegation, announced that India would be submitting comprehensive environmental evaluations for establishing Maitri-II.


  • The ATCM-46 and CEP-26 were hosted by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India, through the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) in Goa, with support from the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat headquartered in Argentina.
  • The event reaffirmed the Antarctic Treaty (1959) and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (the Madrid Protocol, 1991) by the participating Parties. These meetings are crucial global forums for Antarctic affairs, convened annually to foster collective dialogue and action towards preserving one of Earth’s most pristine and fragile ecosystems.

The Antarctic Treaty

  • The Antarctic Treaty was signed by 12 countries on December 1, 1959, in Washington.
  • It was aimed to make Antarctica a demilitarized zone dedicated to scientific research.
  • The original signatories included Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Soviet Union, the UK, and the US.
  • The treaty entered into force in 1961 and now includes 54 parties, with India joining in 1983. Antarctica is defined as all land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude.
  • Headquarters: Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • Major Provisions:
    • Promotion of scientific research freedom.
    • Use of Antarctica only for peaceful purposes.
    • Prohibition of military activities, nuclear tests, and radioactive waste disposal.
    • Neutralization of territorial sovereignty claims.
    • Freezing of territorial disputes.
  • Dispute Resolution: While tensions have occasionally arisen, the treaty has evolved through additional conventions and legal protocols addressing marine conservation, mining prohibitions, and environmental protection. This expansion has helped manage disputes and maintain the treaty’s relevance, forming what is now known as the Antarctic Treaty System.

Antarctic Treaty System:

  • Regulates international relations in Antarctica to ensure peaceful use.
  • Comprises legally binding agreements tailored to Antarctica’s unique characteristics.
  • Major agreements include the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, the 1972 Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals, the 1980 Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and the 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.

Indian Antarctic Programme

  • The Indian Antarctic Programme, initiated in 1981.
  • It is managed by the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) which was established in 1998. It is responsible for all polar and southern ocean research and logistics.
  • Research Stations:
    • Dakshin Gangotri: First Indian research base in Antarctica, now serves as a supply base.
    • Maitri: Second permanent research station, operational since 1989, located in Schirmacher Oasis with a nearby freshwater lake, Lake Priyadarshini.
    • Bharti: Latest research station, operational since 2012, located about 3000 km east of Maitri, designed for harsh weather conditions.
  • NCPOR:
    • The nodal agency for planning, promoting, coordinating, and executing polar and southern ocean research in India.
  • Sagar Nidhi:
    • Commissioned in 2008, this ice-class vessel can cut through 40 cm thick ice and is the first Indian ship to navigate Antarctic waters.