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India’s Deep Ocean Mission: Explained

According to the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MMoES) official, India will launch a Deep Ocean Mission in 3 to 4 months. The frontiers of the deep ocean are yet to be explored. As per the top official of the Ministry of Earth Sciences, India will soon launch an ambitious ‘Deep Ocean Mission’. It will envisage the exploration of minerals, energy and maritime diversity of the underground water world which is a vast part that still remains unexplored.

The required approvals of the same have been obtained for the “futuristic and game-changing’ mission and are likely to be launched in 3 to 4 months as per the ministry’s secretary, M Rajeevan.

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What is the expected cost of the mission?

The mission is expected to cost over Rs 4000 crore and it will give a boost to efforts to explore India’s vast Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf. In the mission, some technologies will also be developed for different deep ocean initiatives.

What is the purpose of the mission?

– The mission will explore India’s vast Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf.

– It will lead to the designing, development and demonstration of human submersibles.

– The mission will also help in exploring the possibility of deep-sea mining and also developing necessary technologies.

– The mission will also enhance the presence of India in the Indian Ocean.

Are other countries active regarding this?

Other players like China, Korea and Germany are also active in the Indian Ocean area in this activity. As last-week, China live-streamed the footage of its new manned submersible parked at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. It was the part of the mission into the deepest underwater valley on the planet.

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Other Departments as Stakeholders in this mission are:

The MoEs will pilot the multi-disciplinary work and other government departments including the Defence Research and Development Organisation, Department of Biotechnology, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will be stakeholders in this mission.

How much area has been ear-marked by India for exploration?

Nearly 1.5 lakh square kilometres of the area has been earmarked by India in the central Indian Ocean for exploration. India signed a 15-year contract in September 2016 with the International Seabed Authority (ISA) for exploration of Polly-Metallic Sulphides (PMS) in the Indian Ocean.

The institution of an ISA was set up under the Convention on Law of the Sea to which India is a Party. This 15-year contract formalised the exclusive rights of India for exploration of PMS in the allotted area in the Indian Ocean.

Earlier 10,000 sq. km of the area has been approved by the ISA for India with a 15-year PMS exploration plan along the Central Indian Ridge (CIR) and Southwest Indian Ridge (SWIR) region of the Indian Ocean.

About Poly-Metallic Sulphides (PMS)

In the Ocean Ridges, Poly-Metallic Sulphides (PMS) have attracted the whole world’s attention for their long term commercial as well as strategic values. PMS contain iron, copper, zinc, silver, gold, platinum in variable constitutions. They are precipitates of hot fluids from upwelling hot magma from the deep interior of the oceanic crust which is discharged through mineralized chimneys.

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About Poly-metallic nodules

The program on Poly-metallic nodules was initiated at CSIR-NIO with the collection of the first nodule sample from the Arabian Sea on board the first Research Vessel Gaveshani on 26 January 1981.

In the world, India was the first country to have been given the Pioneer Area for exploration of deep-sea mineral viz. Polymetallic nodules in the Central Indian Ocean Basin in 1987.

This was based on the extensive surveys that have been carried out by the scientists of CSIR-NIO, on various research ships leading to the allocation of an area of 150,000 sq km to the country with exclusive rights under the UN Law of the sea.

Why exploration is important?

As per scientists only 20% of the seafloor and 70% of the land surface on Earth has been explored by man. The aim is to be prepared when rules are formalised in this area. The deep oceans frontier is yet to be explored. As per the official, they have been working on it in a piecemeal basis but the thrust is to carry out work on a mission mode. The mission also involves more advanced deep-sea vessels for explorations. And the existing vessel Sagar Kanya is early three-and-half decades old.

Is there will be an environmental impact?

As per the IUCN, these deep remote locations can be a home to different species or unique species that have adapted themselves to conditions like poor oxygen and sunlight, high pressure and extremely low temperatures.

Due to such mining expeditions, they can lead to extinct before knowing to the world and science.

As we know that the deep-sea biodiversity and ecology are poorly understood which make it difficult to assess the environmental impact and frame adequate guidelines. Therefore, more discussions, guidelines are yet to be framed and worked upon

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Daily Gist of ‘The Hindu’, ‘PIB’, ‘Indian Express’ and Other Newspapers: 26 November, 2020

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