What is our earth like?
What all does she hold? What is going to be the future of earth? And how
should humans act with the elements of earth? Our mother earth is
undergoing upheavals in a tremendous way following heightened
aspirations of human civilization. Above all, the spectre of climate
change is looming over us. Knowing about the vagaries of nature is yet
another formidable challenge. To comprehend these critical issues of
humanity, the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MOES) of the Government of
India has been following scientific researches in India and outside
India with considerable achievement during the last three years.
At a height of 4000m in Spiti in Himachal Pradesh, a research station
has been built. Himalayan glaciers are being monitored from this
research station called HIMANSH, literally meaning, a slice of ice. Over
a stretch of 130km of Chandra River, water level recorders have been
installed at five locations for studying hydrological balance. Using
Terrestrial Laser Scanners and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, the glacier
motion and snow cover variations can be surveyed and digitalized.
Besides, 150 ablation stakes over six glaciers are installed to know its
mass balance to further on the knowledge of changing climate system.
Ground Penetrating Radar is computing the estimated mass volume that can
reveal this mass balance. HIMANSH has Automatic Weather Station, Steam
Drill, differential global positioning system, flow tracker among other
advanced scientific gadgets.
India’s first Moored Observatory in the Arctic at a water depth of 180m
has come up. This mooring can enable acquiring data of sub-surface
parameters during winter when the surface is frozen. The long term
collection of the data can help understanding variability of processes
due to climate change and also the understanding of atmospheric
processes over the Indian sub-continent.
To get a glimpse of the interiors of the earth is a fabled wish of
scientists and the lay alike. Last year, India’s Borehole Geophysics
Research Laboratory has undertaken scientific deep drilling of the
earth’s crust in Koyna, Maharashtra and its pilot borehole has now gone
up to a depth of 2662m. This study will provide insight to the physics
of reservoir triggered earthquakes and thereby prepare a predictive
For the first time, a deep sea drilling program was conducted in the
Arabian Sea in 2015 as part of International Ocean Drilling Program.
This was to document the co-evolution of mountain building, weathering,
erosion, and climate over a range of timescales including the study of
evolution of continental breakup between India and Seychelles and its
relationship to the plume related volcanism of the Deccan Plateau.
India has been accorded observer status in the Arctic Council in
recognition of her scientific contributions and endeavours in polar
research. India’s Antarctic scientific expedition in its 35th and 36th
edition had expedition members representing different organizations with
projects covering upper atmosphere, astrophysics, geophysics,
meteorology, glaciology, geology, biology, environmental sciences, human
physiology and medicine. Last year, climate change and glaciology were
stressed upon. The 3rd Indian Permanent Research Station Bharati has
commenced its operations to study glaciology, atmosphere, paleo-climate
and polar biology.
In 2015, Polar Remotely Operable Vehicle was launched successfully in
the Antarctica waters at 100 m depth. It is a technological tool to help
carry out explorations in the Polar Regions and at water depths up to
500m. In 2016, it was successfully deployed in the Andaman coral islands
and the vehicle was successfully maneuvered in the undulating reef
terrain to record high quality underwater visuals of coral reef
biodiversity with spectral irradiance.
India became a member of the International Energy Agency –Ocean Energy
Systems (IEA-OES). With this, India will have access to advanced R & D
teams and technologies across the world. The Ministry of Earth Sciences
signed a 15-year contract with the International Seabed Authority (ISA),
for exploration of Poly-Metallic Sulphides (PMS) in Indian Ocean. The
ISA is an institution set up under the Convention on Law of the Sea to
which India is a party.
Earth Science has also been directly sending advisories to the common
people, be it for improved weather and cyclone predictions and improved
monsoon predictions that have brought a tremendous benefit not just to
agriculture but water resources, power generation, transport and
certainly the Indian economy.
Fishermen in India have been relying on their instincts that become a
delimiting factor for a good catch. The Indian National Centre for Ocean
Information Services (INCOIS) provides potential fishing zone advisories
to 2.75 fishermen on a daily basis to help them to easily locate the
areas of abundant fish in the ocean. Advisory maps are made by utilizing
data from multiple satellites. These advisory maps also include
information on Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) boundary to avoid
fishermen crossing across and surface currents of oceans.
MOES along with Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is
providing Agromet Advisory Services in vernacular languages to 21
million farmer in130-agro-met zones across 608 districts of the country.
The Climate Centre at India Meteorological Department (IMD), Pune has
now been recognized as the Regional Climate Centre by the World
Meteorological Organization (WMO) for providing regional climate
services to South Asian countries. An Earth System Model developed by
the scientists at the Indian Institute of Meteorology, Pune will be the
first climate model from India to contribute to the forthcoming sixth
IPCC climate change assessment process. The model can be further used to
develop future regional climate change scenarios at 25 km resolution and
conduct climate impact assessment studies.
Scientific achievements done at the expense of the state should bear
tangible benefits for people. Science should augment societal causes and
bring benefits to all. There are certain researches that take
considerable time but their future societal impact is assessed
beforehand. India’s scientific acumen has led to participation in
several international organizations with redoubtable contribution to
make a better habitation.
*Author is a senior
journalist and a radio documentary maker.
Views expressed in the article are author’s personal.