Cover Autographed by the Minister
New Delhi, 3 Feb 2005. The Minister for Science and Technology and Ocean Development Kapil Sibal, now in the icy continent of Antarctica, announced today that the facilities at Maitri Station of India will be modernized and the fleet of Piston Bully vehicles, meant to travel on ice, will be increased.
Sibal, the first Indian Minister to visit the glacial continent, directed the leader of the 24th Indian Antarctica Expedition, Dr. Rajesh Asthana of the Geological Survey of India to prepare the modernization plan for both the Maitri Station and the Summer Camps.
The Minister also announced the decision to increase the time slot for scientists to speak to their near and dear ones at home. Sibal inaugurated a new platform constructed to provide logistical support to Maitri.
Sibal is leading a high level delegation to Antarctica to take stock of the various operational and scientific activities and to evolve a plan for strengthening the Antarctic Programme of India.Sibal, who is on a three-day visit to Antarctica is scheduled to visit various laboratories around the Maitri Station.
Antarctica, the seventh continent of the World, is a unique land mass, 98% of which is covered by ice and was once contiguous with India as part of Gondwana land. In recent years, this continent which is much larger in size than India and China put together, is emerging as an important key in the understanding of global and environment concerns. Its unique features have provided scientists with special opportunities over the last 35 years to investigate the origin of the continents, the pollution of the globe and changes in world climate. Meteorology from Antarctica has provided the factors that are essential in forecasting the weather patterns of the southern hemisphere and the circulation pattern of the world ocean system.
Since 1981, the Department of Ocean Development has been launching scientific research expeditions on annual basis to Antarctica to utilize its singular environment as a great natural laboratory for scientific investigations. To carry out its scientific programmes India established the first station at Dakshin Gangotri in 1983.
The second permanent station Maitra was established at Schimacher ranges in 1989. Dakshin Gangotri is now being used as supply base and transit camp. Maitri Station is manned throughout the year for scientific activities.
The station is specially designed and built to withstand the vagaries of the extreme climate of Antarctica. The single storied building is well equipped with sophisticated laboratory facilities to carry out scientific research. Basic amenities are provided to make the stay for the team comfortable and result oriented. The station is equipped with essential communication links with India through satellite and High Frequency Band Transmission (HF).
The President, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, spoke to the Minister for Science and Technology and Ocean Development, Shri Kapil Sibal, on board the m/v Emerald Sea at the Antarctic shelf, today. Dr. Kalam sent his greetings and good wishes to the scientific community, which is conducting a wide variety of scientific experiments. The President told the Minister that he was proud of the entire scientific community and was appreciative of their wonderful efforts in inhospitable and adverse conditions. The President stated that the continuing discovery of the Antarctic region would open up a new scientific world.
In his message to all those who are part of this scientific endeavor, the President said, "whatever work they do and whatever they learn in the Antarctic region will be directly applicable to those living in adverse conditions in the high reaches of the Himalayas. The scientific community should be conscious of the enormous potentialities of the Antarctic region for global benefit. The ocean itself contains unique wealth in the form of living and non-living resources".
Dr. Kalam was appreciative of the fact that the wealth of knowledge gained in the adverse circumstances was of great benefit to the nation and for public good. The President complimented the Minister for taking this unique initiative and being the first Minister ever to visit the Antarctic region.
The Minister thanked the President for the sentiments expressed by him and assured him that the scientific community would continue its efforts in this great endeavour.
The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh also spoke to Shri Sibal. The Prime Minister enquired about the welfare of the members of the 23rd and the 24th Indian Antarctic expedition. Dr. Singh asked the Minister to convey his best wishes to all the members of the expeditions for their continued efforts in their multifarious activities in the Antarctic region.
Shri Sibal thanked the Prime Minister and assured him said that he would report back to him about his detailed observations and future course of action in Antarctica related studies.
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