29 year old, young and energetic having high potential with long hair tied in a ponny tail Khwairakpam Gajananda, star son of Sashikumar, hails from Ningthoukhong in Bishnupur district of Manipur.  Gajananda is a promising scientist working on Bio-physics and a Senior Research fellow at the reputed National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi. He was the youngest scientist among a 26-member team of the 18th Antarctica scientific Expedition at Maitri, the permanent station of India at Antarctica. He was nominated from National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi to work on the � Depletion of Ozone layer and ultra Violet Radiation�. The team includes two Russians, one Iranian and other scientists and researcher from different premiere laboratories of India, each of them being assigned a specific area of research on wide variety of subjects. Prof. Ajay Dar of IIT, Mumbai, led the team. The expedition that was flagged off from Vasco-Da-Gama port on December 14, 1998 culminated on 23rd February 2000 when the station was handed over to the team of the 19th   Antarctica Scientific Expedition. After 14 month long expedition he arrived at his native Manipur, on March 12, 2000. He left Imphal for his further research on April 4, 2000. Interested individual can reach him  at [email protected]. E-Pao was able to catch up with him and talk about his experience in the expedition during his short holiday here.
You can  also read his  article on Antarctica here...
Here are the excerpts from his chat with the E-Pao Manipur Correspondent, Atom Samarendra . . .


E-Pao: Our heartiest congratulation on your successful venture with the 18th Antarctica Scientific Expedition
Gajananda: Thank you

E-Pao: Your family must be really proud of you. Could you tell us briefly about your family  background ?
Gajananda: My father is a retired Excise Inspector, and mother a housewife. I�m the youngest of their four children

Gajananda and
    his team-mates

E-Pao: And what about your educational background?
Gajananda: After matriculation from Ningthoukhong High School, I completed P U Science and graduation in Botany from Imphal College. After that I enrolled for my masters degree in Environmental Science at Kurukshetra University and subsequently did M. Tech in the same subject.

E-Pao: How did you land yourself such a pretty swell job in  the prestigious & reputed National Physical laboratory, New Delhi?
Gajananda: While I was working as a consultant in a Delhi based firm I came across a communication from this Institute for appointing three Senior Research fellowships. I applied for it and was there for the tests. True to my feelings and the confidence I was on the top of the list when the results were announced. Well, with that I eventually joined the NPL, New Delhi.

E-Pao: Then how did you get selected for the Scientific Expedition at Antarctica ?
Gajananda: When the Department of Ocean Development, Govt. of India and National Centre for Antarctica & Ocean Research invited for two nominations from National Physical Laboratory, for the '18th Antartica team', our director who is a very  dynamic and wonderful person nominated me for the expedition

E-Pao: What was your area of research in the 14 months long sojourn in the icy continent?
Gajananda: My primary area of focus was to study the �Depletion of Ozone layer and Ultraviolet Radiation.�

E-Pao: Please tell us the chronology of your expedition?
Gajananda: We flagged off our expedition on 14th December, 1998 from Vasco-da-Gama port in Goa by a Norwegian ship � Polar Bird � with a total of 55 people on board including the crew members. We reached the India Bay in Antarctica on January 11, 1999. Our 26 member scientific team including two Russian and one Iranian took off from India Bay by a chopper for Maitri Station (Indian Permanent Station). We reached the station on 16th January 1999. On the following day we were trained for few days and was followed by the took over of the station from 17th Expedition team by our 18th Expedition team. We began our research there from the next day lasting for a long 14 month. After expedition we all came back to India safely and subsequently I came here at Imphal on March 12, 2000.

E-Pao: We are all very curious. Could you share some of your fascinating and important findings of   the research?
Gajananda: The Antarctic Ozone Hole, which was about the size of United States in the 70s, is now reducing to around the size of Brazil. The ozone hole over the southern polar vertex occurs fairly during the season from August to November. In comparison to last year and during the 80s and early 90s. last year the hole is reduced to around ten percent. Ozone, the allotropes of oxygen is the only known gas that absorbs the biologically damaging ultraviolet radiation. Ozone destruction increase the risk associated with UV exposure. Ultra violet radiation consists of wavelengths between 0.1um to 0.4um and subdivided into UV-A, UV-B and UV-C. Both the longest UV-A and the shortest wavelength UV-C are less harmful. The UV-B wavelengths on the other hand are the one that biological organisms are most sensitive and usually responsible for human sunburn and skin cancer. As a result of ozone depletion in the stratosphere, significant amount of potentially harmful UV-B reaches the surface of earth. The biological effectiveness of the UV- radiation is measured in MED/ Hr (Minimum Erythema Dose per hour). One MED/Hr would cause minimal redness of the average skin after an hour of irradiation. The average Eythema Action spectra measured over Antarctica in 1998 from 15th September to 15th October was recorded to around 0.577 MED/Hr. at the same time, last year the measured averaged data is 0.521 MED/Hr. This shows significant reduction in the size of the hole comparing to the 80s and early 90s.

E-Pao: Depletion of ozone layer is now a global concern, how far have the scientists   working in this specific area  come close to combating it?
Gajananda: It�s true. The reduction of ozone hole can be attributed to the Combine efforts to restrict gases, which are responsible for global warming and damage to the ozone layer. Last year marked the deadline for developed countries for 'freezing out' all the ozone damaging gases like CFCs (Cloro Fluro Carbon), methane, nitrous oxide, methyl chloroform etc, under the 1987 Montreal Protocol. For developing countries like India, � Freezing Out� will start this year. Although the release of CFCs will remain in the atmosphere for another 50 to 60 years, we have now some hope of maintaining the stability of the ozone layer.

gajananda and
      his friend on a snow-mobile

E-Pao: We have this image of Antartica being a snow capped place and hence bitter cold. Didn't you face any problem during your stay?
Gajananda: We faced a lot of trouble during our expedition there. Sometimes we were compelled to remain inside our station as wind blows at the speed of 248 Km/Hr, often causing the whole station to tremble. The humidity of the air is very low, thereby very dry.

We can�t witness the sun for more than 1 or 2 hrs a day during May to June. On June 21, we can�t see the sun through out the day, we celebrated this day as � Antarctic Mid Day� we recorded a maximum temp. of �8 degree Celsius in summer and a minimum of �45 degree Celsius in winter.

E-Pao: Well that's a pretty cold affair, anyway is there any fear of environmental degradation in Antarctica due to the intrusion of many human population and the various scientific activities carried out there ?
Gajananda: No, not at all. According to the Antarctica Treaty 1956, no country or individual is allowed to exploit natural resource and non- environment friendly activities are permitted in Antarctica. Scientific Committee for Antarctica Research, SCAR and other environment NGOs are keeping their eyes focused and are monitoring all activities there. Every body including the Scientist and researcher strictly observe and respect these protocols. So, we need not worry about any environmental degradation in Antartica due to human activities there.

E-Pao: What sort of plants and animals survive in this sort of wheather condition ?
Gajananda: As Antarctica is a totally barren land, organisms can scarcely survive there. But we found some flora like algae, lichen and fauna like mites, Tardigrades and penguin. Any thing more than that the place is barren and empty.

E-Pao: A short description of Maitri Station�
Gajananda: Maitri was established in 1990 and is located at Queen Maud Land 200 Km away from the shelf. It is totally insulated and is fire proof. There are 69 other stations from 17 countries in different parts of Antarctica. We use generators for electricity. The station is well equipped with the latest technology in communication, transport, health care, food resources and other scientific facilities. Dakshin Gangotri, which was the permanent station of India, had been dissolved due to shift climatic condition of the location. Now, Maitri is India�s permanent station at Antarctica.

E-Pao: If you had to go to another station or want to talk to your loved ones. How was that done? What were the means of transport and communication there?
Gajananda: For commuting purposes, we use snow scooters and a chopper. To communicate with other stations and mainland we depend on sattelite based systems - e-mail, Internet, teleconferencing apart from fax and ISD.

E-Pao: You must have come back with lots of memories of the place. What were your most bitter and happy moments during your stay ?
Gajananda: Well, the most bitter moment was the demise of our chopper engineer due to Hypothermia on the 14th of January 2000. It is a disease caused due to extreme cold. And definitely, the happiest moment was when my girlfriend rang me up for my birthday on 6th September 1999. (Laughs)

E-Pao: What is your view on the prevailing environmental concerns in Manipur ?
Gajananda: It�s really horrible. As you know, prevention of environmental degradation is a burning issue these days. It is my view that the awareness of this challenge is astronomically very low here. Unluckily Manipur is too late to respond. I can�t acknowledge any plans and projects to combat it here.

E-Pao: Well, that's something we have to endure! How do you think your expertise and experience can be used for Manipur ��
Gajananda: Good idea, but I don�t expect any initiative especially from the government. That is why I�m compelled to drain my brain somewhere else. I can assure you that the govt. is overseeing the matter as nothing serious. So we have to be ready to meet the dire consequences.

E-Pao: Finally, a word of message to the aspiring students of Manipur ?
Gajananda: If they are striving for success, they should have an � effort� and importantly a fearless vision & drive towards achieving what they started out to get. I practically believe that these are the two wills or ways to success.

E-Pao: A big thanks for spending your valuable time with us. We hope that you will be equally successful in  your coming ventures. Nevertheless, E-Pao wish you the very best of luck & success in all your future endeavours.
Gajananda: It is my pleasure. Thanks for your encouragement.

Other Interviews:
| Hema Malini | R.K.Dinesh | L. Mema | AIDS | Sonali |

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