G’nY. Most of the Antarctic state parties have enacted laws for safety of their personnel and activities in Antarctic waters and land. Where does India stand in drafting an Antarctic legislation? Oceanographic research interests India is well ahead into the preparation of an Antarctic legislation. A high level quasi-legal committee has been constituted for the task and the legislation will be soon placed for action. At present, the initial drafts are being circulated to other ministries for vetting. Once this is over, a formal cabinet note for approval will be sought before tabling it in the Parliament. The legislation also mandates a formal nod of the law ministry before it is passed and enacted. Due care has been taken in the Indian Antarctic Legislation to encompass safety regulations for Indian citizens in the Antarctic area. Oceanographic research interests.
G’nY. India’s turn to host the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) is drawing close. How prepared are we?
India successfully hosted XXX-ATCM in New Delhi in 2007 at Vigyan Bhavan. The nation would be hosting the ATCM meeting a second time, five years from now in 2024. ATCM is a prestigious global event that calls for the participation of nearly 400 international officials from various Antarctic Treaty partners and Observers. The process to set it up is in place and the submission for consent to the ATCM would be completed by 2020-21. Oceanographic research interests.
G’nY. India needs a Polar research vessel (PRV) as well as replacement of aging ORV Sagar Kanya. Where do we stand in this respect?
Efforts to procure a PRV, which will provide the required impetus for Polar research, has been ongoing for a while now. The Indian Government however, has recently given a nod to the project, igniting all round interest in the scientific community. At present a yard is being selected in the country where the ship can be fabricated. The Ministry is hopeful that requisite funds will soon follow. As for the oceanographic research vessel (ORV) Sagar Kanya, it has been serving India for nearly three decades and is the platform for the basic oceanographic research. The vessel has sustained research and has proved its worthiness beyond its time. It needs to be currently replaced with a suitable ORV. The process to acquire three new ORVs have been put in place, which will hugely augment oceanographic research in the country.
G’nY. What are India’s plans as far as setting up of an observational network in the glaciers of the Himalaya is concerned?
With the successful commissioning of our first year round station at Lahaul-Spiti, Himachal Pradesh at an elevation of 4115 m, the Ministry can now collect year round weather information along with annual measurements of mass balance, hydrological and glacialogical data of key glaciers such as Sutri Dhaka, Bara Shigri, Batal, Samudra Tapu and Gepang Gath (between 4000 and 6000 m). These measurements are being carried out since 2013 in continuum, which will help understand the glacier dynamics and their response to the changing climate. The Himalaya being one of the longest mountain ranges in the world is marked by thousands of glaciers. Though logistically a difficult task, we are identifying key locations where observational stations can be set up. We also look forward to involve other national institutes/ universities which are working in similar fields to strengthen the Himalayan programme, which is indeed crucial for the well-being of the populace of the Indian sub-continent.
G’nY. Indian cooperation in the science and technology with Norway is growing at an encouraging speed. Are we thinking about expanding this cooperation with other Arctic nations too?
The Indo-Norwegian history of cooperation dates back to the early 1950s where Norway provided research and development aid to Kerala. This aid was also Norway’s first development project with India which focused on modernisation of fisheries along the dimensions of health, sanitation and water supply. Over the last six decades, India and Norway have launched an array of projects in various fields, strengthened the relations leading to the establishment of India’s own research base ‘Himadri’ at Svalbard, Norway. On the other end, we already have a long-standing collaboration with Russia, not only in Arctic but in the Antarctica as well. There is a large scope for further collaborations with other Arctic nations such as Denmark, with a great potential to work in the Greenland; and, Alaska (USA) where there is a possibility of establishing another Arctic research station to expand India’s research interests. India is also engaged in initial talks with the Canadian government for engaging in collaborative research. India plan to use the Asian Forum for Polar Sciences (AFoPS) umbrella with Korea Polar Research Institute (KOPRI) to send our researchers onboard the Korean vessel Araon this year. Collaborations are the essence of science. It gives us an opportunity to work extensively in the Arctic Ocean where we can document the influence of Arctic climate teleconnections on the Indian monsoon. Oceanographic research interests.
Further reading on polar regions: