Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) launched “Deep Ocean Mission”, with a view to explore deep ocean for resources and develop deep sea technologies for sustainable use of ocean resources.
The overall estimated cost of the Deep Ocean Mission is Rs.4077 crores for a period of five years (2021 to 2026). Rs. 150 crores and Rs. 650 crores are allocated during 2021-22 and 2022-23.The program will consist of various manned and unmanned submersibles exploring the sea bed. The primary aim of the mission is to explore and extract polymetallic nodules which are composed of minerals like manganese, nickel, cobalt, copper and iron hydroxide. The metals are useful in manufacturing of electronic devices, smartphones, batteries and solar panels.
The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is an autonomous international organization established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 1994 Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1994 Agreement). ISA which has its headquarters in Kingston, Jamaica, came into existence on 16 November 1994
ISA has allocated a site of 75,000 km2 (29,000 sq mi) in the Central Indian Ocean for India. India was the first country in the world, to have sponsored the exploration of deep sea mineral viz polymetallic nodules, in the central Indian Ocean basin in 1987.
71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by oceans. About 95 per cent of Deep Ocean remains unexplored. For India, with its three sides surrounded by the oceans and around 30 per cent of the country’s population living in coastal areas, ocean is a major economic factor supporting fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, livelihoods and blue trade. Oceans are also storehouse of food, energy, minerals, medicines, modulator of weather and climate and underpin life on Earth. Considering importance of the oceans on sustainability, the United Nations (UN) has declared the decade, 2021-2030 as the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. India has a unique maritime position. Its 7517 km long coastline is home to nine coastal states and 1382 islands. The Government of India’s Vision of New India by 2030 enunciated in February 2019 highlighted the Blue Economy as one of the ten core dimensions of growth.
In 2016, the first World Ocean Assessment of the United Nations stated that humankind was running out of time to start managing the ocean sustainably.
The Deep Ocean Mission consists of the following major components.
- Development of Technologies for Deep Sea Mining, and Manned Submersible: A manned submersible will be developed to carry 3 people to a depth of 6000 metres in the ocean with suite of scientific sensors and tools. Only a very few countries have acquired this capability. An Integrated Mining System will be also developed for mining Polymetallic Nodules from 6000 m depth in the central Indian Ocean. The exploration studies of minerals will pave way for the commercial exploitation in the near future, as and when commercial exploitation code is evolved by the International Seabed Authority, an UN organization. This component will help the Blue Economy priority area of exploring and harnessing of deep-sea minerals and energy.
- Development of Ocean Climate Change Advisory Services: A suite of observations and models will be developed to understand and provide future projections of important climate variables on seasonal to decadal time scales under this proof of concept component. This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of coastal tourism.
- Create awareness amongst the public, students, academicians and user communities about the various fields of Earth system science as well as on the achievements and services rendered by MoES.
- Technological innovations for exploration and conservation of deep-sea biodiversity: Bio- prospecting of deep-sea flora and fauna including microbes and studies on sustainable utilization of deep sea bio-resources will be the main focus. This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of Marine Fisheries and allied services.
- Deep Ocean Survey and Exploration: The primary objective of this component is to explore and identify potential sites of multi-metal hydrothermal sulphides mineralization along the Indian Ocean mid-oceanic ridges. This component will additionally support the Blue Economy priority area of deep-sea exploration of ocean resources.
- Energy and freshwater from the Ocean: Studies and detailed engineering design for offshore Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) powered desalination plant are envisaged in this proof of concept proposal. This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of off-shore energy development.
- Advanced Marine Station for Ocean Biology: This component is aimed as development of human capacity and enterprise in ocean biology and engineering. This component will translate research into industrial application and product development through on-site business incubator facilities. This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of Marine Biology, Blue trade and Blue manufacturing.
The objectives of the mission are as follows:
- To develop technologies for mining of deep sea resources like Polymetallic nodules from theCentral Indian Ocean at a water depth of 5500 m.
- Design, and develop one working prototype and one final manned Submersible rated for6000metre water depth along with technologies for underwater vehicle and underwater robotics
- To provide the future projections or predictions on the trends in sea level along the Indian coast,cyclone intensity and frequency, storm surges, wind waves, biogeochemistry and ecosystem that affect the fishery, at seasonal to decadal time scales for the north Indian Ocean under the climate change scenario. To install deep ocean observations (below 2 km depth) over the Indian Ocean.
- Inventorization, archival of specimens and development of DNA bank of deep-sea fauna ofNorthern Indian Ocean through systematic sampling using Remotely Operated Vehicle.
- Development of technology for isolation of deep-sea piezotolerant and piezophilic microbes, symbionts and screening for novel biomolecules using culture-based and meta genomicapproaches.
- Exploration of formation of life friendly molecules and organismal components in deep sea.To explore and identify potential sites of multi-metal hydrothermal sulphides mineralization alongthe Indian Ocean mid-oceanic ridges.
- To acquire new all-weather multidisciplinary research vessel for Indian Ocean operations.Detailed engineering design document for high capacity offshore OTEC powered desalinationplant
- Performance assessment of critical components such as deep-sea cold-water conduit and mooring system by demonstration of scaled down components in deep sea.
- Integrating the ongoing advanced basic and applied research in marine biology, marine ecologyand related marine engineering through the establishment of an advanced Marine Station for Ocean Biology.
- Translate research in marine biology and engineering into industrial application and product development through establishment of on-site business incubator facilities.
- Capacity building with French Institutes. Excellent Indian candidates, stringently selected at anational level, will be deputed to the French institutes to be trained in all areas of marine biosciences.
- National and International collaboration in education, research and excellence in the field of marine science and ocean science and Ocean Technology.
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