NCAOR: The Indian Gateway to Polar Regions

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By Kalpana Palkhiwala
Deputy Director (M & C), Press Information Bureau, New Delhi

New Delhi, July 15, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR) is the nodal agency coordinating and implementing the Indian Polar (Arctic, Antarctic and southern Ocean) Program. It is the only institute in the country that has the capability to archive & process ice cores from Polar Regions. India has successfully launched 30 scientific expeditions to Antarctica and 5 expeditions each to Arctic and Southern Ocean till now. In the year 2010-11, NCAOR accomplished the first ever Indian expedition to South Pole. Apart From Maitri in Antarctica, India now has a research Base – Himadri – in Arctic. The first phase of the construction of new research base in eastern Antarctica, Bharati, is complete and station is likely to be commissioned in 2012-13. The process for acquisitions of a new Ice Breaker Polar research Vessel is in advanced stage.

The Research programmes include Ice Core Studies, Remote Sensing, Polar Lake Studies, Climate Change Studies, Southern Ocean Processes, Exclusive Economic zone Survey, Legal continental Shelf Mapping, Environmental Impact Assessment and Microbial Biodiversity & Biogeochemistry.

The Institution gives facilities like National Antarctic Data Centre, Earth Station – Satellite Link with Maitri, Digital repository for Antarctic publications, Ice core processing and repository complex , Oceanographic Research Vessel – Sagar Kanya, State of the art laboratory and library facilities.

It provides major scientific instruments for various activities. They are  Elemental Analyzer, Ion Chromatograph, Gel Documentation System, Scanning Electron Microscope, Total Organic Carbon Analyzer, Polymerase Chain Reaction System, Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer, Stable Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer, High Performance Liquid Chromatography and Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer.

New Initiatives

Second phase of construction  of India’s Third Permanent Research Station Bharati at Larsemann Hills is likely to be completed by 2012-13 Season. First phase comprising site preparation, transportation of construction machinery, erection of fuel farm, laying of pipe lines for drinking and waste water, fuel supply, helipad, piling for main station was completed as per schedule this year.

New initiatives in Geotraces & Biogeochemistry studies in all three Poles (Arctic, Antarctic and Himalaya)  will result in better understanding of Ocean processes, global climate, biogeochemical cycles and marine productivity that is critical for society to respond effectively to the challenges of climate change, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and for the sustainable use of marine resources. They will be carried out during 12th Five Year Plan.  GEOTRACES is an international programme which aims to improve the understanding of biogeochemical cycles and large-scale distribution of trace elements and their isotopes in the marine environment. Scientists from approximately 30 nations have been involved in the programme, which is designed to study all major ocean basins over the next decade.

Under the Cryosphere program, NCAOR will initiate multidisciplinary glaciological studies on snow, ice, and permafrost in Arctic, Antarctica as also in selected glaciers in Himalaya to fill the gaps information especially in the field of snow-ice chemistry, dating of the ice cores and palaeoclimate studies. The study will generate long term data essential for coming to a conclusion on health of glaciers and thereby the impacts of climate change.

Marine Geophysics Program will  unravel the bed rock geological features in Andaman Nicobar area, post tsunami tectonic changes, evolution of Indian Ocean, geophysical anomalies in Indian Ocean region etc.

To Facilitate the Indian researchers with better equipments who are engaged in the studies in Polar Regions an  Ice Breaker Vessel will be  Acquired. This is required to enhance their data collecting capabilities. So long, India was hiring cargo vessels for taking its scientists to Antarctica because of which no meaningful data could be acquired en route to Antarctica. Acquiring our own vessel has also been made necessary because India would be operating from two Antarctic stations in near future as also in Arctic.

India is in the process of claiming Legal Continental Shelf and the second partial submission for an additional area of 0.6 million square km is already under way for submission. India already made its first partial submission for an extended continental shelf of approx. 0.6 million square km in May 2009.

NCAOR  is now is a position to provide logistic and scientific support to scientists interested in pursuing high end research in highly inaccessible regions of Antarctica beyond the reach of helicopters. This is a possibility now for South Pole Expedition & Beyond due to establishing the rout across the mountains in interiors of Antarctica since their trips in this continent.  Gains accrued from the First Every Scientific Expedition to farthest end of Earth – South Pole will be consolidated for future landing at the polar plateau for deep ice core drilling.

Southern Ocean Expeditions  will be  launched  to understand complex ocean fronts , biological diversity and biogeochemical processes in the oceans south of 33 degree latitudes in southern hemisphere. The expedition is open to all Indian universities, national organizations and research institutions.

Scientists staying in Antarctica for longer duration will be able to keep track of scientific publications from across the world as connectivity with Antarctica will be strengthened. Data transfer and voice transmission between Antarctica and India will improve by increasing band width. This would enhance the data transfer capabilities and update the scientists.

- PIB Features

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