India's Antarctic Research

INDIA'S ANTARCTIC RESEARCH

In March 2012, India successfully commenced operations at Bharati, the third permanent station in the Antarctica. The summer complement of the 31st Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica returned from Antarctica after completion of targeted activities. During the 6th expedition to the Southern Ocean 2011-12, continuous observations were carried out for ocean currents, atmospheric parameters and biogeochemistry by operating various instruments.


-India entered in the field of Antarctic research with its first expedition ‘Operation Gangotri’ in December 1981. The third expedition constructed the permanent scientific research station ‘Dakshin Gangotri’ in 1983-84.

-The second research station ‘Maitri’ was set up in 1988-89. The various scientific programmes of Antarctic Research included studies in the field of meteorology, radio-wave-propagation, geology, Geophysics, Oceanography, Marine biology, Microbiology, upper atmosphere chemistry, Glaciology, etc.

-India was admitted as a consultative member of Antarctic treaty in 1959. In September 1983, India became a member of the scientific committee on Antarctic Research. India acceded to the convention on the conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources from July 17, 1985 and became full time member of the Commission from September 1986.

-Antarctica is the seventh continent of the world. It covers about 14 million sq. km area with about 5, 12,000 sq. km ice-free area. Up to seventh decade of 20th century, this was considered as an abandoned area for mankind, but after the discovery of ozone hole in Antarctica, this abandoned region was visualized with great importance and at the same time other useful areas were discovered.

-Antarctica is rich in biological resources. Seals, more than 40 species of birds, fungi, algae, grasses, penguins, etc., are found here. Krill of Antarctica is one of the most famous and abundant resource of the world with the estimated stock of 1000 million metric tonnes of which at least 40-50 million metric tonnes could be harvested annually without endangering the stock. Antarctica ice cap contains 70% of world’s fresh water store and more than 90% of ice. The ice-free region of Antarctica has been visualized as having large scale mineral deposits. And this region is probably the world’s biggest coal-field.

-The purpose of the Indian Antarctic research is to identify and initiate studies and programmes, which are of significance in scientific and economic terms and to establish infrastructure facility and expertise which would enable India to sustain and expand its activities.

-Furthermore, it would add to our knowledge of the various features related to the Indian Ocean and also to the weather related to monsoon. Antarctica is also crucial to global weather phenomena, such as, air circulation pattern, the cold phases and the sea currents.

-India hosted and chaired the meeting Asian Forum for Polar Sciences in New Delhi on 6-7 August 2012. China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and host India participated in the meeting and exchanged information on the activities carried out in the Antarctic, Arctic and Southern Ocean. India won the bid for hosting the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) – XII International Symposium on Antarctic Earth Sciences, in 2015 at Goa.

The Indian Antarctic Research Programme has been designed to take advantage of the unique site and environment of Antarctica towards understanding the key global processes that govern our future well being. The scientific programmes are essentially part of it and rooted in the following long-term programmes:
(i) Ice-Ocean-atmosphere system in Antarctica and global environment.
(ii) Antarctic lithosphere and Gond- wanaland reconstruction framework for delineating plate tectonic processes and assessment of mineral resources and hydrocarbons.
(iii) Antarctic ecosystem and environmental physiology.
(iv) Solar terrestrial processes.
(v) Innovative technologies for support systems.
(vi) Environmental impact assessment.
(vii) Generation and structuring of data bases-geological, topographic, thematic mapping and ecosystem changes, environmental parameter, health care, etc.

Sai Praveen

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