India to convey its plans to build a new research station in Antarctica at Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting

India has two active research stations — Maitri and Bharti — in Antarctica.

Updated - May 08, 2024 07:14 pm IST

Published - May 08, 2024 06:41 pm IST - New Delhi

Dr M. Ravichandran, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, during an interaction with PTI, in New Delhi,  on May 8, 2024.

Dr M. Ravichandran, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, during an interaction with PTI, in New Delhi, on May 8, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

India will formally convey its plan to develop a new research station in Antarctica to the governing authority of the icy continent when the body meets for its annual meeting in Kochi later this month.

The 46th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) and the 26th Meeting of the Committee for Environment Protection will be held in Kochi from May 20-30 where countries engaged in research in the southern polar region will share the outcome of their scientific pursuits and also their future plans.

"This year, we are going to inform the ATCM that we are planning to go for a revamp of our research station Maitri. Revamp means, Maitri is very old, we have to re-construct," M. Ravichandran, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, said in an interaction with PTI editors in Delhi.

India has two active research stations — Maitri and Bharti — in Antarctica. The first research station, Dakshin Gangotri, set up in 1983, had to be abandoned after it sank in the snow.

Among the scientific community, Maitri, which was built about 35 years ago, is called a village, while the 12-year-old Bharti is a state-of-the-art facility with all the trappings of a luxury hotel, but without the elaborate staff.

Once the Maitri-2 research station is built, the Maitri station is expected to be turned into a summer camp and designated as a monument.

Regulating tourism in Antarctica

Also on the agenda of the ATCM are plans to regulate tourism in Antarctica, which is the Earth's only continent without an indigenous population and is governed by the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) which was signed in 1961.

For the 2022-23 season, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) reported 32,730 cruise-only visitors, 71,346 landed visitors and 821 deep-field visitors.

"The problem is that tourism in Antarctica is not properly regulated, so this year there is a discussion of the regulation of that," he said.

The last major decision on tourism was a measure passed in 2009 that prohibited cruise ships carrying more than 500 passengers from making landings in Antarctica.

Other items on the agenda

Key items on the ATCM agenda include strategic planning for sustainable management of Antarctica and its resources; policy, legal, and institutional operations; biodiversity prospecting; inspections and exchange of information and data; research, collaboration, capacity building and cooperation; addressing climate change impacts; development of tourism framework; and promoting awareness.

India has proposed the name of senior diplomat and former Deputy National Security Advisor Pankaj Saran as the Chair of the 46th ATCM. Over 350 delegates from more than 60 countries are expected to attend the ATCM and CEP meetings this year hosted by the National Centre for Polar and Oceanic Research (NCPOR) at Lulu Bolgatty International Convention Centre (LBICC) in Kochi.

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