India has decided to build a new research station in Antarctica replacing its very old predecessor Maitri Station by the year 2029. The Maitri-1 Station was established by India in the year 1988 and it was supposed to last only for a decade.
The new station, known as Maitri-2 Station will be established in Eastern Antarctica near the existing one and it will have the capacity to house about 90 scientists. The establishment of the new research facility will enhance the quality of Indian research regarding the White Continent. On December 21, 2023, the Indian minister of Earth Sciences Kiren Rijju stated that the station will be ready to use and become operational by 2029.
In a written reply to the Upper House of the Indian Legislature called Rajya Sabha, the minister also added that the site for the new research station Maitri-II has been identified and a preliminary topographical survey for the approach road is underway.
Reason for New Station
India’s current research center, Maitri is quite old. In such a situation creation of a new research center is becoming necessary. The proposal envisages adherence to environmental protocols for Antarctica and improving the quality of Indian scientific research in Antarctica.
Details of the Topographical Survey
A period of eighteen months will be required to develop the master plan and appointment of consultants and an additional eighteen months will be required for the drafting tender and awarding contract.
Another eighteen months are crucial for mainland purchase, pre-fabrication, and transportation from the Cape Town/ Indian Border to the main site. Twelve months for transportation of final components from the Indian Border to the main site and construction in Antarctica by the construction company are essential. By the year 2029, the new station will be ready.
Indian Presence in Antarctica
There are three major stations of India in the White Continent as per the Indian Antarctic Program. These are Dakshin Gangotri, Maitri, and Bharati Station. The Dakshin Gangotri is situated 2,500km from the South Pole. It is now used as a supply depot and transit supply base. It was deactivated after sinking through the ice. The Maitri Station is India’s second research station after Dakshin Gangotri was decommissioned.
The Bharati Station is India’s third research facility. It is operational since 2012. There are 47 technicians and researchers during winter and 73 in summer. Its main focus is on oceanic studies and the process of Continent separation. This station is permanently staffed.
The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research though located in Goa, handles the responsibility of managing three Indian Antarctic Stations namely Bharati, Himadri, and Maitri stations. India is a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty (1959) and has passed legislation and bills such as the Indian Antarctic Deal 2022.
Apart from the climatic conditions, isolation from the rest of the world, and inhospitable terrain, the most prominent challenge comes from the People’s Republic of China, which has made wide strides in the research space for the White Continent. It is also on the way to building its fifth research base there and has deployed more than 450 personnel to the snowy continent.