28.11.2018 change 28.11.2018

Nearly PLN 88 million for the Polish Antarctic Station from the Ministry of Science

From left: Prof. Robert Bielik, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Science and Higher Education Jarosław Gowin, Agnieszka Kruszewska and Prof. Piotr Zielenkiewicz during a press conference on the Ministry of Science grant for the infrastructure expansion of the Arctowski Polish Antarctic Station, Nov. 21 at the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in Warsaw. Photo: PAP/Jakub Kamiński 21.11.2018 From left: Prof. Robert Bielik, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Science and Higher Education Jarosław Gowin, Agnieszka Kruszewska and Prof. Piotr Zielenkiewicz during a press conference on the Ministry of Science grant for the infrastructure expansion of the Arctowski Polish Antarctic Station, Nov. 21 at the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in Warsaw. Photo: PAP/Jakub Kamiński 21.11.2018

The Ministry of Science will provide nearly PLN 88 million for the reconstruction of the Arctowski Polish Antarctic Station infrastructure. "This is the largest grant for polar research in 40 years" - said Minister of Science Jarosław Gowin.

The Ministry of Science and Higher Education awarded a PLN 88 million grant for the reconstruction of the station infrastructure and the construction of a new main building. Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Science and Higher Education Jarosław Gowin announced the grant at a press conference in Warsaw. "This is the largest grant for polar research in 40 years" - he commented.

"Poland is one of the pioneers of polar research. The achievements of Polish scientists have placed us in the lead in this respect for years. Those achievements were made possible by a special place in Antarctica - the Arctowski station" - said the minister. He added: "Unfortunately, the station has been subject to gradual depreciation due to climate change and sea level rise. We could say that its future existence is threatened" - said Gowin.

The status of Antarctica is preserved until the end of 2047 and territorial claims are suspended. But discussions about the future of this place will return. Therefore - according to Gowin - the station`s functioning is crucial not only for scientific reasons, but also for our foreign policy. "Thanks to the presence of Polish researchers, their spectacular research achievements, Poland`s voice in the debate on the future of Antarctica will be widely heard" - emphasized Jarosław Gowin.

The station is managed by the Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Director of the institute Prof. Piotr Zielenkiewicz, thanking for financial support, said that the ministry was saving the situation. "The station is threatened by the waters of the bay" - he said.

The building`s project has been prepared by the architecture studio Kuryłowicz & Associates. The station building will have an area of over 1300 square meters of usable space. It will include residential, laboratory, conference and library rooms. According to Agnieszka Kruszewska from the Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics PAS, the station is a Polish "calling card and element of scientific diplomacy".

In the context of Arctowski Station`s problems (resulting from the sea level rise, among other things), Jarosław Gowin was asked about the Polish government measures to address global warming. "The problem has been the subject of lively discussions for many years" - he replied.

He added: "Our government is preparing a number of activities related to combating smog. We are aware of the complexity of this issue. The Polish economy is still based primarily on coal. Legal regulations at the EU level appear to be overregulations. We sometimes get the impression that they serve not so much the common good of all humanity - that is the environment - but rather the particular interests of individual states, and even individual corporations" - he said.

Pointing to researchers associated with the Arctowski Station, he said that he was aware that their scientific research "also provided many arguments". "We are aware that the problem of global warming exists, not only each country must face it, but also the human race as a whole".

The Polish Antarctic Station and two Polish field bases: Lions Rump and Demay provide infrastructure for scientific research in the field of oceanography, geology, climate science, microbiology, botany, ecology, genetics, biology, sea chemistry and many others.

According to Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Science and Higher Education Jarosław Gowin, the Polish Antarctic Station is a calling card of Poland in the Antarctic region. The minister reminded that Poland was one of the pioneers of polar research.

The Arctowski Polish Antarctic Station, located on King George Island in the South Shetland archipelago, has been operating since the end of the 1970s. For years, scientists have been alarming about its bad situation due to the location of the station`s main building. When it was erected 40 years ago, it was several meters from the sea; at the current high water levels it is less than one meter. Researchers say that a storm may hit it at any time and make it partially non-operational.

For several years, the organisation that manages the station - the Institute of Biophysics and Biophysics PAS - has been trying to obtain funds for the construction of a new main building from the Ministry of Science. Its construction cost (together with several new laboratories and a residential part) is estimated at nearly PLN 90 million.

The station is an informal Polish "embassy" on the only uninhabited continent. Poland - as one of the signatories of the Antarctic Treaty - is included in the group of 29 consultative states that can make decisions about human activities in Antarctica. One of the conditions for joining this group is carrying out significant scientific and research work, such as setting up a research station or sending a scientific expedition. It also requires consent from other countries that are partiers to the treaty. The future of this research depends on the maintenance of the station building and its infrastructure.

PAP - Science in Poland, Ludwika Tomala

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