India to commission 3rd research station in Antarctica

Last Updated: Monday, November 7, 2011 - 18:17

Panaji: Nearly 28 years after it set up the
first permanent research station in the South Polar region,
India is all set to commission and occupy a third such station
in Antarctica by March next year.

After the station named `Bharti` becomes operational,
India will join the league of select nations that have
multiple operation stations in the region.

Director of the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean
Research (NCAOR) Rasik Ravindra said that the new station is
located almost 3,000 km away from the existing `Maitri`
station which is serving the nation since its inception in
1988-89.

"The construction of the new station is going on at a
hectic speed. The current Indian Antarctic Expedition that
sailed off from Cape Town on October 26 under the leadership
of Rajesh Asthana will complete the project in this Antarctic
summer itself, hopefully by March 2012," Ravindra told a news agency.

"We will occupy it soon thereafter," he said.

The scientists associated with NCAOR had earlier carried
out a comprehensive environmental evaluation (CEE) of the
project for the new station at Grovnes promontory in the
Larsemann Hills on the eastern part of the South Pole.

Indian scientists will undertake cutting-edge research on
geological structures and tectonics at the centre from the
next year, he said.

`Bharati` station is a self-contained double-storey
structure on stilts and is designed to have a life span of 25
years. It will accommodate 25 people during summer and 15
people during winter.

The setting up of this station was taken up in two
phases. Phase I materialised during summer of 2010-11 and
Phase II in the successive summer.

As per the CEE, minor and transitory impacts on the
Antarctic environment are likely due to construction of the
ambitious project.

Although `more than minor and transitory impacts on the
Antarctic environment` are expected due to construction, the
impacts are expected to be minimised with measures like use of
combined heat and power concept for heating and renewable
energy sources, low sulphur fossil fuel, optimisation of
vehicle movement, efficient treatment of effluents, bringing
back hazardous and sanitary wastes to mainland for disposal
and others, Ravindra said quoting the CEE study.

The proposed location is of interest on account of
scientific and logistic reasons, ice-free terrain and easy
access from the sea.

"This area, including the islands and promontories,
offer an excellent scope for extensive studies on geological
structures and tectonics with special reference to
Gondwanaland, palaeoclimatology, solid earth geophysics,
space-weather and meteorology, oceanography, marine biology,
microbiology, environmental science," Javed Beg, a senior
NCAOR scientist said.

"To facilitate the planned scientific studies, including
environmental monitoring, the station will have
state-of-the-art laboratory facilities," he said.

The station is designed to withstand extreme
environmental conditions prevailing at Larsemann Hills and is
compliant with the environmental standards under the Madrid
Protocol, Ravindra said.

The Larsemann Hills area is marked by persistent, strong
katabatic winds that blow from east to southeast during
austral summer. Extreme minimum temperature recorded in the
region so for is -40 C, though the daytime mean monthly
temperatures during summer drop to around 0 degree C.

India had in the past established Dakshin Gangotri (1983)
and Maitri (1988-89) stations in Antarctica. The former has
since been decommissioned after it got buried under ice and
has been marked as an historic site.

PTI



First Published: Monday, November 7, 2011 - 17:43

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