Background: Arctic Region and Climate change
Background: Arctic Region and Climate change
- Arctic region is an enormous area around the North Pole spreading over one-sixth of the earth’s landmass.
- It is increasingly being affected by external global forces – environmental, commercial and strategic.
- Therefore it is poised to play an increasingly greater role in shaping the course of world affairs.
- Climate Change and the resultant rapid melting of the Arctic Ice cap is the most important phenomenon that is redefining the global perspective on the Arctic.
- Research indicates that the Arctic may experience nearly ice free summers as early as 2030’s opening up enormous opportunities as well as challenges.
- This has resulted in the attraction of Arctic oil and gas reserves and unexploited marine life.
- This also opens up shorter shipping routes connecting the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.
- However the adversarial impact of melting Arctic Ice cap on the indigenous communities, the marine ecosystems and aggravation of global warming.
Arctic council and its significance
- Antarctica, though uninhabited, is governed by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty ensuring that it is used for exclusively peaceful purposes.
- There is no similar international regime for the Arctic.
- In the Post Cold War era a move towards cooperative arrangements for managing the Arctic region led the establishment of Arctic Council.
- The Arctic Council is a high level intergovernmental body set up in 1996 by the Ottawa declaration.
- The primary aim of Arctic council is to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States together with the indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants.
- The Council has the eight circumpolar countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Denmark (Greenland and Faroe Islands), Canada, US and Russia) as member states.
- It is mandated to protect the Arctic environment and promote the economies and social and cultural well-being of the indigenous peoples whose organizations are permanent participants in the council.
- India was accorded permanent observer status at the eighth ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council at Sweden in 2013.
- On the agenda of the Arctic Council are issues relating to:
- Shipping regulations
- Maritime boundaries
- Search and rescue responsibilities
- Devise strategies to mitigate the adversarial impact of the melting of Arctic ice cap
India and the Arctic
- India’s signed the ‘Svalbard Treaty’ in 1920 in Paris.
- It is a Treaty between Norway, US, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Ireland and Sweden.
- India’s interests in the Arctic region are scientific, environmental, commercial as well as strategic.
- India initiated its Arctic Research Program in 2007 with thrust on climate change in the circumpolar north to study the connection between the Arctic climate and the Indian monsoon.
- India launched its first scientific expedition to the Arctic Ocean in 2007 and opened a research base named “Himadri” at Ny-Alesund, Svalbard, Norway.
- India was elected to the Council of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) in 2012.
- It is in recognition of this contribution to Arctic Studies that India was granted observer status to the Arctic Council in 2013.
- A major milestone in India’s scientific endeavors in the Arctic region was successful deployment of IndARC, the country’s first multi-sensor moored observatory in the Kongsfjorden fjord of the Arctic.
- IndARC is an observatory to study seawater temperature, salinity, current and other vital parameters of the fjord.
- India is also planning to buy its first polar research vehicle (PRV) in 2018 to conduct research, exploration and surveys.
- The polar research vehicle is important to undertake intensive studies in the Antarctica and Arctic regions as well as to carry out a range of ocean studies.
Importance of Arctic for India
- Navigability of Arctic
- As mentioned above the Arctic has witnessed enormous depletion in its ice cover.
- This will make the Arctic waters navigable.
- Therefore, being a maritime nation, India should work with the International Maritime Organization and push for development of the Polar convention for navigation.
- Melting of Arctic ice and Monsoon
- Melting ice may also add to the problem of global warming with its reduced capacity to absorb carbon dioxide.
- The worry is that the imminent change in the Arctic is going to affect the monsoons in India.
- This also results in thermal expansion, which increases the sea level, thereby allowing melted glacial water to flow into tributaries of Himalayan Rivers.
- Thus looking forward to the AHA moment (linking the Arctic, the Himalayas and the Antarctica) in the International dialogue on climate could be a case in point for India.
- Arctic and energy security
- Arctic is also crucial for India’s energy needs.
- The Arctic region has huge deposits of hydrocarbons.
- India wants to be more active in the exploration of the hidden treasure beneath the Ocean.
- The melted navigable waters could also be used for generating thermal energy with the temperature differences on the surface of this water and beneath.
- The $400 billion Russia-China Siberian gas pipeline deal was signed in 2017.
- This will enable China to receive 38 billion cubic metres of gas annually from 2018.
- Taking cue from this India has also signed MoU’s with Russia in the fields of gas, oil, and energy.
- China’s attempt in exploring the best ways and areas to participate and play a constructive role in Arctic affairs has further alarmed India.
Section : Environment & Ecology