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Indian Antarctic Program Essay

The Indian Antarctic Program is a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional program under the control of the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India. It was initiated in 1981 with the first Indian expedition to Antarctica.[1] The program gained global acceptance with India's signing of the Antarctic Treaty and subsequent construction of the Dakshin Gangotri Antarctic research base in 1983,[1] superseded by the Maitri base from 1990. The newest base commissioned in 2015 is Bharati, constructed out of 134 shipping containers. Under the program, atmospheric, biological, earth, chemical, and medical sciences are studied by India, which has carried out 30 scientific expeditions to the Antarctic as of 14 October 2010.


The origin of Indian missions to the Antarctic are traced to the joint Indian Space Research Organisation – Hydrometeorological Centre of Russia agreements, which led to Indians, such as Dr. Paramjit Singh Sehra, joining the 17th Soviet Antarctic expedition of 1971–1973.[2]

India and Antarctic Treaty[edit]

India officially acceded to the Antarctic Treaty System on 1 August 1983. On 12 September 1983, the country became the fifteenth Consultative Member of the Antarctic Treaty.[3]


The National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research—a research and development body functioning under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India—controls the Indian Antarctic program.[4] The NCAOR and the Department of Ocean Development select the members for India's Antarctic expeditions.[2] After medical tests and subsequent acclimatization training at the Himalayas, these selected members are also trained in survival, environment ethics, firefighting and operating in a group.[2]

One expedition costs up to ₹200 million (US$3.1 million).[2] Logistical support to the various activities of the Indian Antarctic program is provided by the relevant branches of the Indian armed forces.[4] The launching point of Indian expeditions has varied from Goa in India to Cape Town in South Africa on 19th expedition during the time of NCAOR Founding Director Dr. P C Pandey in December 1999.[2] Over 70 institutes in India contributed to its Antarctic program as of 2007.[2]

Global cooperation[edit]

The Indian Antarctic program is bound by the rules of the Antarctic Treaty System, which India signed in 1983.[4] Pandey (2007) outlines the various international activities that India has undertaken as a part of its Antarctic program:

On 12 September 1983, India achieved the status of Consultative Party, on 1 October became a member of Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), and in 1986 became a member of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). In 1997 India also ratified the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty thus reaffirming India's commitment to protecting the Antarctic environment. India hosted the eleventh COMNAP/SCALOP (Standing Committee on Antarctic Logistics and Operations) meeting in Goa in 1999, and the working group meeting on eco-system monitoring and management of CCAMLR in August 1998 at Cochin. India occupied the CCAMLR chair beginning in November 1998 for a period of 2 years.[2]

India also collaborates with the international community as a member of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, Regional Committee of Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission in Coastal Indian Ocean (IOCINDIO), International Seabed Authority (ISBA), and the State Parties of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).[4][5][6]


Antarctic holds scientific interest for global research projects due to a number of reasons: 'Origin of continents, climate change, meteorology and pollution' are among the reasons cited by S.D. Gad (2008).[4] Mrinalini G. Walawalkar (2005) holds that: 'ice–ocean interaction and the global processes; paleoenvironment and paleoclimatic studies; geological evolution of earth and Gondwanaland reconstruction; Antarctic ecosystems, biodiversity and environment physiology; solar terrestrial processes and their coupling; medical physiology, adaptation techniques and human psychology; environment impact assessment and monitoring; enabling low temperature technology development; and studies on earthquakes' are among the areas of study under the Indian Antarctic program.[6]

Close to 1,300 Indians had been to the continent as of 2001 as a part of the country's Antarctic program.[7] Indian expeditions to the Antarctic also study the fauna and the molecular biodiversity of the region.[8][9] A total of 120 new microbes had been discovered as a result of international scientific effort in the Antarctic by 2005.[6] 30 of these microbes had been discovered by Indian scientists.[6] India has also published over 300 research publications based on Antarctic studies as of 2007.[2]

The 'ice cores' retrieved by drilling holes in Antarctic's vast ice-sheets yield information 'on the palaeoclimate and eco-history of the earth as records of wind-blown dust, volcanic ash or radioactivity are preserved in the ice as it gets accumulated over time'.[4] The NCAOR developed a polar research & development laboratory with a 'low-temperature laboratory complex at −20 °C for preservation and analysis of ice core and snow samples' according to S.D. Gad (2008).[4] The 'ice core' samples are held, processed, and analyzed in containment units designed by such technology.[4] Storage cases made of poly propylene also ensure that the samples do not alter characteristics and are preserved for analysis in the form that they were recovered.[4]

Research stations[edit]

In 1981 the Indian flag unfurled for the first time in Antarctica, marking the start of Southern Ocean expeditions under the environmental protocol of the Antarctic Treaty (1959).

Dakshin Gangotri[edit]

Main article: Dakshin Gangotri

The first permanent settlement was built in 1983 and named Dakshin Gangotri. In 1989 it was excavated and is being used again as supply base and transit camp.


Main article: Maitri

The second permanent settlement, Maitri, was put up in 1989 on the Schirmacher Oasis and has been conducting experiments in geology, geography and medicine. India built a freshwater lake around Maitri known as Lake Priyadarshini. Maitri accomplished the mission of geomorphologic mapping of Schirmacher Oasis.


Main article: Bharati

Located beside Larsmann Hill at 69°S, 76°E, Bharati is established in 2015. This newest research station for oceanographic research will collect evidence of continental breakup to reveal the 120-million-year-old ancient history of the Indian subcontinent. In news sources this station was variously spelled "Bharathi",[10] "Bharti"[11] and "Bharati".[12]

Indian Antarctic expeditions[edit]

Lieutenant Ram Charan, an Indian Navy meteorologist, was the first Indian to visit the Antarctica, in the South Pole, when he accompanied an Australian polar expedition in 1960. He died in a road accident in 1961.



  • Gad, S. D. (2008), "India in the Antarctic", Current Science, 95 (2): 151, Bangalore: Indian Academy of Sciences.
  • Pandey, P.C. (2007) in "India: Antarctic Program", Encyclopedia of the Antarctic edited by Beau Riffenburgh, pp. 529–530, Abingdon and New York: Taylor & Francis, ISBN 0-415-97024-5.
  • Pursuit and Promotion of Science – The Indian Experience (2001), New Delhi: Indian National Science Academy.
  • Walawalkar, M. G. (2005), "Antarctica and Arctic: India's contribution", Current Science, 685, Bangalore: Indian Academy of Science.
  • "Scientific Report of First Indian Expedition to Antartica"(PDF). Department of Ocean Development, Government of India. 2016. 

External links[edit]

Col. Jatinder Kumar Bajaj, a member of one of the Indian expeditions to Antarctica, standing at the South Pole (17 January 1989)
Antarctic Treaty System:

  signatory, consulting, territorialclaim.

  signatory, consulting, reserved right for territorial claim.

  signatory, consulting.

  signatory, acceding status.


  1. ^ abWalawalkar (2015), Gad (2008)
  2. ^ abcdefghAnas (2007)
  3. ^Department of Ocean Development, Government of India. Annual Report 1983-1984, TECHNICAL PUBLICATION NO. 3., Printed at Dee Kay Printers Kirtinagar, New Delhi
  4. ^ abcdefghijGad (2008)
  5. ^Pursuit and Promotion of Science – The Indian Experience (2001), 351
  6. ^ abcdWalawalkar (2005)
  7. ^ abPursuit and Promotion of Science – The Indian Experience (2001), 352
  8. ^Pursuit and Promotion of Science – The Indian Experience (2001), 173
  9. ^Pursuit and Promotion of Science – The Indian Experience (2001), 213
  10. ^The Hindu : Tamil Nadu / Cuddalore News : Third Antarctica research station by 2011
  11. ^"Bharti to be 3rd Indian station in Antarctica", The Times of India, 6 August 2009
  12. ^The Hindu News Update Service


  • India is drafting a dedicated Antarctica policy and a law to have a clear policy on the consequences of its activities in the region.
  • Dakshin Gangotri, has weakened and become just a supply base. A committee that includes Biman Patel, Vice-Chancellor, Gujarat National Law University, has been asked to draft the new ‘Antarctica law.’
  • The Antarctica treaty is framed to ensure that Antarctica shall continue to used exclusively for peaceful purposes and not become an object of international discord.

India on the Antarctic Treaty

  • The Indian Antarctic Programme is a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional programme under the control of the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India.
  • Under the programme, atmospheric, biological, earth, chemical, and medical sciences are studied by India, which has carried out 35 scientific expeditions to the Antarctic till now.
  • The programme was initiated in 1981 with the first Indian expedition to Antarctica, a huge geo-political achievement. Dr. S Z Qasim, Secretary of Department of Environment and former Director of NIO was selected as the leader of the 21-member team.

The Antarctica Treaty

Posted inKnowledge Base|

  • the land exploration of Antarctica is recent, most of it being accomplished during the twentieth century.
  • By mid-century, permanent stations were being established and planning was underway for the International Geophysical Year (IGY) in 1957-58, the first substantial multi-nation research program in Antarctica.
  • The outstanding success of the IGY led these nations to agree that peaceful scientific cooperation.
  • The Antarctic Treaty was signed in Washington on 1 December 1959 by the twelve nations that had been active during the IGY (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States and USSR).
  • The Treaty, which applies to the area south of 60° South latitude, is surprisingly short, but remarkably effective.
  • The Treaty has 52 signatories, 28 Consultative.

Conventions such as the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (1972), and Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (1980) are appended to this treaty for protection.

14 articles of The Antarctica Treaty

Posted inKnowledge Base|

  • stipulates that Antarctica should be used exclusively for peaceful purposes, military activities, such as the establishment of military bases or weapons testing, are specifically prohibited;
  • guarantees continued freedom to conduct scientific research, as enjoyed during the IGY;
  • Promotes international scientific cooperation including the exchange of research plans and personnel, and requires that results of research be made free available;
  • Sets aside the potential for sovereignty disputes between Treaty parties by providing that no activities will enhance or diminish previously asserted positions with respect to territorial claims, provides that no new or enlarged claims can be made, and makes rules relating to jurisdiction;
  • Claims can be made, and makes rules relating to jurisdiction;
  • Prohibits nuclear explosions and the disposal of radioactive waste;
  • provides for inspection by observers, designated by any party, of ships, stations and equipment in Antarctica to ensure the observance of, and compliance with, the Treaty;
  • requires parties to give advance notice of their expeditions; provides for the parties to meet periodically to discuss measures to further the objectives of the Treaty; and

puts in place a dispute settlement procedure and a mechanism by which the Treaty can be modified.

The Antarctic Treaty System

Posted inKnowledge Base|

  • The Treaty System includes the recommendations, measures, decisions and resolutions of the Consultative Meetings relating to matters such as:
  • Scientific cooperation;
  • protection of the Antarctic environment;
  • conservation of plants and animals;
  • preservation of historic sites;
  • designation and management of protected areas;
  • management of tourism;
  • information exchange;
  • collection of meteorological data;
  • hydrographic charting;
  • logistic cooperation; and

communications and safety.

Dakshin Gangotri

Posted inKnowledge Base|

  • Dakshin Gangotri was the first Indian scientific research base station established in Antarctica, as a part of the Indian Antarctic Program.
  • Located at a distance of 2,500 kilometres from the South Pole, it was established during the third

Indian expedition to Antarctica in 1983/84. This was the first time an Indian team spent a winter in Antarctica to carry out scientific work.



Posted inKnowledge Base|

  • Maitri is India’s second permanent research station in Antarctica.
  • It was built and finished in 1989, shortly before the first station Dakshin Gangotri was buried in ice and abandoned in 1990/91.

Maitri is situated on the rocky mountainous region called Schirmacher Oasis. India also built a freshwater lake around Maitri known as Lake Priyadarshini.


Posted inKnowledge Base|

  • Bharti, India’s latest research station operation since 2012, has been constructed using 134 recycled shipping containers, to help researchers work in safety despite the harsh weather. It is
  • India’s first committed research facility and is located about 3000 km east of Maitri.
  • Bharti made India an elite member of the club of nine nations that have multiple stations in the region.

The research station can accommodate 25 scientists, saving them from the outdoors where temperatures range from -89 degrees Celsius in winter to -25 degrees Celsius in summer.

Sagar Nidhi

Posted inKnowledge Base|

  • In 2008, India commissioned the Sagar Nidhi, the pride of the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), for research.
  • An ice class vessel, it can cut through thin ice of 40 cm depth and is the first Indian vessel to navigate Antarctic waters.
  • The ship is the first of its kind in the country and has been used several times for the launch and retrieval of remotely operable vehicle (ROV) and the deep-sea nodule mining system, as well as for tsunami studies.

India is expanding its infrastructure development in Antarctica. The government is rebuilding its station, Maitri, to make it bigger and last for at least 30 years.



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