Photo: National Centre for Polar & Ocean Research
About India’s National Antarctic Program
COMNAP Representative (MNAP): M. Ravichandran, Director
(DMNAP): Javed Beg, Programme Director Logistics
India began its National Antarctic Program under the aegis of Department of Ocean Development (DOD) of the Government of India in 1981. A Centre dedicated to Antarctic Expeditions, named as ‘Antarctic Study Centre (ASC)’ was established at Goa in 1988. The ASC was subsequently upgraded into an autonomous institute ‘National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR) under DOD (now known as Ministry of Earth Sciences). In August 2018, the Ministry of Earth Sciences changed the name of NCAOR to the National Centre for Polar & Ocean Research (NCPOR).
The main goals of the NCPR are to plan, promote and execute the entire gamut of polar sciences and logistic activities of the country in Antarctica, the Arctic and in the Southern Ocean. NCPOR is also responsible for construction on new research stations and maintenance of existing stations in Polar Regions.
The year round station, Maitri was built in 1989 on the Schirmacher Oasis in Queen Maud Land. Previously, India operated the station Dakshin Gangotri from 1983 – 1989 which was abandoned after being buried in ice. India extended its Antarctic presence by building a new station in the Larsemann Hills region about 3,000 kilometers from Maitri. The new station is named Bharati and has been operational since 18th March 2012.
NCPR also manages India’s flagged Oceanographic Research Vessel Sagar Kanya. This vessel was commissioned in 1983 and has an endurance of approximately 45 days. It is a versatile ocean research platform equipped with advanced scientific equipment and related facilities for carrying out marine geological and geophysical surveys, meteorological, biological, physical and chemical oceanographic research in the deeper parts of the Indian Ocean region. The NCPR also charters different research vessels from local and international operators for its multifarious oceanographic research in coastal, tropical and Southern oceans.
The activities of NCPOR in Polar Regions and other mandated spheres are fully met by the Grant-in-aid by the Government of India. The expenditure incurred in the field of the National Polar Program, for the 2011-2012 financial year, was (in India Rupees): Antarctic research – 703,600,000; building of Bharati Station – 1,850,000,000; Southern Ocean studies – 74,200,000; NCPR – 94,400,000; In-house research & development – 22,700,000; and Arctic expedition – 54,000,000.
Organizational Structure of the NCPR
The NCPOR is led by a council of 12 members representing a cross section of the country’s leadership in Polar and Ocean Sciences, research, education and administration. The Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, who is also the ex-officio Chairman of the Governing Council, appoints this and the two other Committees, to advise on research and financial matters The overall responsibility for the planning, administration and functioning of the Centre as well as for the execution of the in-house research & development activities is vested with the Director of NCPOR, who is also the Member-Secretary of the Governing Council and Research Advisory Committee. The framework for NCPOR is then divided into different divisions: Programme Planning and Evaluation, National Antarctic Programme, Oceanographic Surveys and Services Group, Research and Development Group, Legal Continental Shelf Project, Management Service. The management services are further divided into: the Administrative, Finance and Purchase & Stores divisions.
Our Science Program
Disciplines studied at Maitri Station include atmospheric sciences, meteorology, earth sciences, glaciology, human biology and medicine, biology, environmental sciences, engineering and communications. NCPOR tends to focus on topics/fields that are not already covered by other Indian organizations. The emphasis thereby is on palaeoclimate and palaeoenvironment studies, sea-ice-atmosphere interaction, climate modeling, remote sensing and oceanography of the Southern Ocean Several leading Indian universities and Indian Institutes of Technologies, research institutes and organizations are also part of the Indian Antarctic Program.
The studies related to climate change constitute a thrust area. Some glacier snouts and the continental ice margins are monitored on a long term basis. Stake farms have been established on ice shelf and continental ice to measure the snow accumulation/ablation rate.
Inputs to mass balance studies are gathered on a year long basis. Geomagnetic, GPS, seismological and meteorological observatories exist at Maitri along with sophisticated ionosonde and riometer set up for recording various parameters. Meteorologists collect three hourly synoptic data on weather parameters which are supplemented by three Automated Weather Stations (AWS) stationed at different locations.
Monitoring of biodiversity of melt water lakes, soils and snow is a continuous program, with lichens and cynobacteria, and non-native species monitoring receiving special attention.
Two medical specialists, who are stationed at Maitri, often undertake studies on human physiology and areas including behavior sleep patterns.
Major Scientific projects developed for Bharati include:
- Study of sea-ice processes in Prydz Bay Region
- Monitoring of geospace environment in eastern Antarctica
- Aerosol, pre-cursor gas and cloud distribution over Larsemann Hills and resultant change in snow chemistry
- Lower atmospheric and ionospheric studies
- Land cover studies using multi-spectral and hyper-spectral remote sensing data, polar ice dynamics
- Long term environmental monitoring and health of Bharati
- Microbial diversity, algal habitats, bryophytes, floristic studies on lichens and search for novel bioactive molecules
- Monitoring of airborne fungi at different altitudes
- Monitoring of wild life habitats, influence of anthropogenic activities
- Early history of Gondwana rifting, correlation between eastern mobile belt of India and Lambert-Amery rift zone of Antarctica
- Crustal evolution history of Larsemann Hills area
- Glaciological studies and search for meteorites in eastern Antarctica
- Late quaternary palaeo-environmental reconstruction from different proxies
- Hydrographic surveys
NCPOR maintains an icecore laboratory along with a Class 100 clean room for processing of ice cores at its campus in Goa. It has a special division on cryosphere studies that deals with snow, ice and glaciers of the Arctic, the Antarctic and also of Himalaya. A cryobiology laboratory has recently been added. The Polar Environment and Ecology Divisions work in close cooperation with microbiology laboratory and ensure all experiments are carried out in an environmentally sensitive manner.
A Polar Remote Sensing Laboratory has been acquiring past and recent satellite images to prepare Digital Elevation Models (DEM) of snow and ice surfaces of the area around Schirmacher Oasis and Larsemann Hills.
The Universities of Goa and Mangalore recognize the NCPR as a research centre for the pursuit of doctoral research. All Antarctic results are published in the peer reviewed international and national journals. A National Antarctic Data Centre (NADC) which is a free online data warehouse is being updated and will be made publically available to promote international collaboration. India has collaborated in past with Norway, Germany, Italy, France, Brazil, Finland, Sweden, Malaysia and the USA.
Our Contact Details
National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research
Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India
Phone, Fax, Email
Phone: +91 (832) 2525501/2520876
Fax: +91 (832) 2525502/2520877
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