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Tuesday, Dec 26, 2023
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Site for Maitri-II identified in Antarctica, operations to commence in 2029

The new research station will be located just a few kilometres away from the Maitri station currently operating in the eastern Antarctica region.

MaitriMaitri, India’s main research base in Antarctica, has been operational since 1989 / (Source / NCPOR)

A team of Indian polar scientists has identified a site for the establishment of India’s new research station in Antarctica. This research base will be located just a few kilometres away from the presently operational Maitri station in the eastern Antarctica region.

Earth Sciences Minister Kiren Rijiju had shared India’s plans to build Maitri-II in the Rajya Sabha last week.

India has been undertaking multiple expeditions to Antarctica to carry out studies on marine, biological, geological and atmospheric sciences for over three decades now. The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa, is the nodal agency for carrying out expeditions to the poles.

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Maitri, which has been hosting researchers since 1989, is India’s second research base located on Schirmacher oasis in east Antarctica. An inland station located about 100 km from the shore and at an elevation of about 50 metres above sea level, Maitri can house 25 people, each, in its main building during both the summer and winter months. The numbers can go up to 40 during the summer months, facilitated through containerised living modules.

Maitri was originally proposed to serve for 10 years. “But Maitri is getting old now and has its own limitations,” Thamban Meloth, NCPOR director, told The Indian Express.

Festive offer

Last month, a delegation of experts led by M Ravichandran, Ministry of Earth Sciences Secretary, had visited Antarctica. During the visit, they inspected sites near Maitri. “We focused on factors like the availability of water, transportation of crew from the ship to the proposed site, waste management… some of the requirements for the smooth operations of the new station. We have identified a suitable site,” added Meloth, who was part of the visiting delegation.

In addition, experts from the Survey of India are currently undertaking a topographical survey of the site. “We will have high-resolution maps made available sometime early next year, which will give us further idea about the new site. Maitri-II will be constructed adhering to all the environmental norms of the region and will be a state-of-the-art facility,” the NCPOR director said.

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As per the plan, the development of the master plan and identifying the consultant, the tendering and contract awarding, and the prefabrication works will each take 18 months. After this, the final assembled components will be shipped to the Indian Barrier, which is about 100 km away from Maitri. From the Indian Barrier, the components will take another 12 months to be transported to the proposed site and construction will take another 12 months.

The new research base is scheduled to be operational in January 2029.

-Anjali Marar works at the Raman Research Institute, Bengaluru

First published on: 26-12-2023 at 13:25 IST
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