Call for more Indian research stations in Arctic

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New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) As the world grapples with the challenge of climate change, a top Indian scientist has called for the opening of more Indian research stations in the Arctic.

“India’s observer status in the Arctic Council is very important,” K. Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Indian government, said at a seminar on “Finland and India: Engaging the Arctic” here on Tuesday.

“I hope India will set up more research stations in the Arctic,” Raghavan said.

India’s sole Arctic station Himadri is located at the International Arctic Research Base in Ny-Alesund, Norway.

The seminar was jointly organised by the Finland Embassy here, the Carnegie India think tank and the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the government of India.

The Arctic Council is the leading inter-governmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic states, Arctic indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.

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Its member nations include Finland, the chair from 2017 to 2019, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US. India has been an observer nation of the Council since 2013.

Raghavan said the discovery of the hole in the earth’s ozone layer completely changed the way people viewed the world.

“That changed our view of Polar science and other eco-systems,” he said.

Stating that the earth’s climate has changed over seven cycles in the last 650,000 years, he said 16 of the warmest years on record occurred since 2001.

“2016 is the warmest year on record,” Raghvan said, adding that human intervention is the dominant cause for climate change.

In her opening remarks, in what she called the first ever Arctic event in India, Finland Ambassador to India Nina Vaskunlahti said that “the Arctic is closer to us than you think”.

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“Climate change has brought the world world together,” she said.

“Arctic Council countries and India face the common challenge of black carbon emission.”

Rene Soderman, Senior Arctic Official for Finland, said that the Arctic region is not an isolated and will turn into an important hub in the 21st century with migration happening.

“Four million people live in the Arctic and 10 per cent of them are indigenous people,” Soderman said.

“Global warming is changing the lifestyle of the people in the Arctic.”

Stating that climate change is happening more rapidly in the Arctic than anywhere else, he said that this can be mitigated only through the full implementation of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

“Finland wants to expand multilateral cooperation on the Arctic,” Soderman said.

“Arctic cooperation will continue despite international tensions.”

Stuti Banerjee, Research Fellow at the Indian Council of World Affairs think tank, said climate change in the Arctic will affect the Indian coastline.

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“As the sea level rises, around 55 million people in India will be affected in terms of relocation of homes,” Banerjee said, adding that New Delhi is still at a nascent stage of formulating an Arctic policy.

Giving a geopolitical aspect of the issue, Shekhar Sinha, former Flag Officer Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Navy’s Western Naval Command, said that China has linked the Arctic to its own prosperity.

“Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that he wants China to be a Polar power,” Sinha said.

Stating that climate change in the Arctic can affect regional systems like the Indian monsoon, M. Rajeevan, Secretary in the Ministry of Earth Sciences, said that India is in talks with Canada for opening another Arctic research station.

“We would also like to collaborate with Finland in this regard,” he said.

–IANS

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