India to launch mission to Mars in 2013: Mukherjee

New Delhi, Feb. 21 (ANI): President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday said several space missions are planned for 2013, including India's first mission to Mars and the launch of the first navigational satellite.

Addressing a joint session of Parliament for the first time as President, Mukherjee said 'our space programme epitomizes India's scientific achievements and benefits the country in a number of areas'.

"The launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle on 9 September 2012 marked our 100th space mission. India's first remote sensing satellite RISAT-1, with all-weather imaging capability, was also launched in 2012. Several space missions are planned for 2013, including India's first mission to Mars and the launch of our first navigational satellite," he added.

President Mukherjee said the country continues to make progress in the field of nuclear energy.

"Electricity generation from nuclear power plants increased by about 23% in 2011-12 over the previous year. This year, two units of the nuclear power plant at Kudankulam, established with Russian collaboration, will be commissioned. My government attaches the highest priority to the safety of nuclear power plants," said President Mukherjee.

"A Bill to set up a Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority has been introduced in Parliament. We have also conducted internal technical reviews of all safety systems of nuclear power plants in the country. In addition, we are working with the International Atomic Energy Agency on all nuclear safety issues," he added.

President Mukherjee said the government has unveiled the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2013 to accelerate the pace of discovery, diffusion and delivery of science-led solutions for faster, sustainable and inclusive growth.

"In order to popularize science education in schools, nearly 7.30 lakh scholarships have been awarded under a scheme called Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research," said President Mukherjee.

"About 48 percent of the awardees are girls and 25 percent belong to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. A new PPP doctoral fellowship titled "Prime Minister's Fellowship Scheme for Doctoral Research" has been implemented this year," he added.

President Mukherjee said the government is setting up a dedicated Seismological Research Laboratory and has launched a first-of-its-kind research programme in the earthquake-prone Koyna-Warna region of Maharastra to study precursor changes.

"The Indian tsunami early warning system was recognized as the Regional Tsunami Service Provider for the Indian Ocean region in October 2012. India's third permanent station in Antarctica was commissioned in March 2012," he added.

Stating that India successfully hosted the eleventh Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Hyderabad in October 2012, President Mukherjee said: "The event provided India with an opportunity to consolidate, scale-up and showcase its strengths in the field of biodiversity. One of the most important outcomes of this Conference was the commitment made by the Parties to double the total biodiversity-related international financial resource flows to developing countries by 2015."

"At the Conference, the Prime Minister launched the 'Hyderabad Pledge', wherein he announced earmarking US $50 million during India's presidency of the Conference of Parties to strengthen the institutional, technical and human capabilities for biodiversity conservation in India, and to promote similar capacity building in other developing countries," he added.

President Mukherjee further said ' at the recently held Doha Conference on Climate Change, India played a lead role in ensuring that the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibility continue to be recognized as the basis of the Parties' efforts under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change'. (ANI)

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