India, surrounded by the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, has a vast coastline and the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is equivalent to about 67% of the land area of the country.
India does not have a dedicated Deep Ocean Mission so far. (Representational image)
Union Budget 2021 and Deep Ocean Mission: Over Rs 4,000 crore for preservation of Deep Sea biodiversity! During her speech on Union Budget 2021-22, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman spoke about the environment and announced that in order to preserve marine biodiversity, a Deep Ocean Mission would be carried out. For this, a budget outlay of over Rs 4,000 crore would be allocated over a span of five years, and under this mission, the deep ocean survey exploration would be undertaken, along with projects to conserve deep sea biodiversity.
India, surrounded by the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, has a vast coastline and the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is equivalent to about 67% of the land area of the country, according to the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences’ National Institute of Ocean Technology. Despite such a vast oceanic area, through which a large portion of India’s trade is also handled, India does not have a dedicated Deep Ocean Mission. Only a handful of countries have such a mission to explore the Deep Ocean, including the US, China, Russia, Japan and France, and the launch of such a mission by India will place the country in the elite group.
According to the US’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the humankind currently knows only about 5% of the oceans in the world, and most of this knowledge is contained to the shallow waters. Deep Oceans still remain a mystery to humans, even though our reliance as a species on oceanic ecosystems is very high, as the water bodies play an important role in maintaining the weather and climatic conditions that sustain us. Moreover, the deep waters also provide us with food and energy along with other resources.
With the help of Deep Ocean Exploration missions, the researchers aim to make discoveries that are settled under water, hidden from the human eye. However, these missions require a lot of organisation, rigorous observations as well as the documentation of chemical, physical, archaeological, biological as well as geological aspects of the oceans. These explorations provide the researchers with detailed information regarding the areas deep within the ocean, so that they can understand whether the resources being utilised today are being a judicious manner or not. The aim is to ensure that the resources we currently use from these areas continue to remain in abundance for future generations, and information gathered from these missions aim in better management in this regard.
These missions are also important for a deeper understanding of how the humans are affecting the environment, as well as the extent to which humans are being affected by such changes.
Deep Ocean Mission: Towards the Blue Economy
Such missions are also important to develop the Blue Economy which has been envisioned by 2030. Blue Economy, as defined by the World Bank, is the sustainable utilisation of resources from the ocean towards economic growth, ocean ecosystem health as well as improved jobs and livelihoods.
A deeper knowledge about oceanic resources would allow governments to accordingly manage the utilisation of these resources so as to ensure economic growth while also allowing future generations to enjoy these resources in abundance. Moreover, such research would also allow us to understand the extent of the impact of human activities on the oceans, for example littering.
So far, there have been several cases of exotic deep sea biodiversity washing up dead on shores, bringing with them a slew of plastic waste. However, the exact extent to which such waste affects the oceans is not yet known. While attempts are being made by governments world over to stop such littering, such research can put into perspective the harmful effects current practices have on marine ecosystems, likely helping in ushering in a change in the human habits.