Evolution of NIO

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1. Background

IIOE (1959-65), sponsored by Scientific Committee on Oceanographic Research (SCOR) and Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), was the first true multinational large scale experiment in the world ocean, in which 20 countries with over 40 ships and hundreds of researchers participated. This expedition generated a wealth of information that was documented in several atlases, books, conference proceedings, special reports besides numerous research papers. One of the most important outcomes of IIOE was the establishment of the Indian Ocean Biology Centre (IOBC) that was transformed into the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) as a CSIR National Laboratory, on the 1st of January 1966.

2. History of formation of NIO

The foundation of CSIR-NIO was one of the most important outcomes of the International Indian Ocean Expedition (IIOE, 1960-65). Scientists involved in IIOE planning did not think only of sampling the Indian Ocean but also felt the need of establishment of oceanographic research institutions in this area. Prof. R.B. Montgomery emphasized this requirement stating “..this program can be so designed as to aid directly the development of one or more oceanographic centers in the countries bordering the Indian Ocean…..” Prof. Eugene LaFond wrote “…To spread the gospel and attain any lasting results, the work has to be carried on partly by the scientists of the Indian Ocean area…. Most Asian students will be enthusiastic….. This opportunity and encouragement should be the primary goal of the expedition.” Prof. LaFond had previously worked for many years at Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, and was quite aware of the potential for development of marine sciences in India. Just before IIOE, he had visited India explaining the importance of the expedition to the enthusiasts spread in various organizations.

In 1960 the Government of India constituted the Indian National Committee on Oceanic Research under the Chairmanship of Prof. D.N. Wadia, FRS, an eminent geologist, for planning and coordination of the Indian scientific programme for the IIOE. This committee felt that it would be in the national interest to consolidate the experience gained and human resources developed during the IIOE at an institutional level having the status of a National Laboratory. The first proposal to this effect was placed by Prof. Wadia in the 52nd meeting of the Board of Scientific & Industrial Research (BSIR) on 23 March 1964. The recommendations were then approved by the Governing body of CSIR on 24 March 1964 in its 47th meeting. These meetings were chaired by Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, as the President of CSIR. The draft plan for setting up of NIO was placed before the BSIR during its 54th meeting that was chaired by Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri – the second Prime Minister of India - on 5 May 1965, and was approved in the 49th Governing Body meeting of CSIR on 6 May 1965. The Indian National Committee on Oceanic Research, which was also designated as the Planning Committee for the Institute, had recommended that the main institute be located at Goa with regional centres at Cochin, Waltair and Calcutta

CSIR-NIO began functioning on 1 January 1966 taking over all the units and activities of the Indian Ocean Expedition Directorate (IOED) with Dr. N.K. Panikkar, who had been heading the IOED, as the Founder Director. The Institute consisted of several units. The main research units were the Indian Ocean Biological Centre (IOBC), Biological Oceanography Division, and Physical Oceanography Division, all located in Kochi (Cochin), the Planning and Data Division and the temporary headquarters at New Delhi, and a field unit at Mumbai (Bombay) that had severed as a Liaison office during the IIOE. The field unit in Goa was set up in May 1967.

The final decision concerning the location of CSIR-NIO’s Headquarters at Goa and the regional stations at Kochi, Visakhapatnam (Waltair) and Kolkata (Calcutta) was taken in the 52nd Governing Body meeting of CSIR on 19 November 1966.

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