‘Hope India will help tackle melting ice as Arctic Circle observer’

New Delhi, May 16 (IANS) Norway hopes India, a “key player” in the deliberations on climate change, would help find a solution to the fast-melting ice cover in the Arctic region now that it has got observer status in the Arctic Council.

Norwegian ambassador Eivind S. Homme said Oslo, a member of the eight-nation Arctic Council, is “happy India has shown interest in that part of the world”. India has a research station at Svalbard, Norway.

The Council Wednesday agreed to include India, China, Japan, Italy, South Korea and Singapore as observers at a meeting in Kiruna, Sweden – including Asian countries as observers for the first time.

According to official estimates, the Arctic holds 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of undiscovered gas deposits.

With countries on the hunt for energy and minerals in the Arctic, Homme said it was for the Council to discuss ways to find the right balance between saving the ecology and using the available resources.

Referring to the Indian station at Svalbard, Homme told IANS: “That is a laboratory to see what is happening on climate change. We all need to increase our research and see what is happening.”

The station is operated by the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research. It was set up in 2008.

“In general and with regard to climate change, India is a key partner (with Norway),” said Homme on the sidelines of an event to celebrate Norway’s Constitution Day Wednesday.

The melting Arctic ice has opened up the region’s waterways to commercial shipping traffic.

It has also made accessible the region’s abundant quantities of oil, gas and minerals.

Asked about global concerns on the rapidly melting ice at the Arctic, which scientists predict will be ice-free by 2050, Homme said the melting was happening much faster than anticipated.

Norway, he said, was naturally worried. In areas of climate change, India is a key player, he added.

The Council members are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US. The Council acts as a watchdog for the rights of the region’s indigenous people and protector of its fragile ecosystem.

According to reports, China has been active in the region for some time. It has become one of the biggest investors in mining in Greenland and has agreed a free trade accord with Iceland. It is also looking at shorter shipping routes across the Arctic Ocean.

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