The mission is expected to explore the deep ocean for resources and at the same time, develop deep sea technologies that can be used for sustainable use of ocean resources.
Recently, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs gave its approval for the Deep Ocean Mission proposal submitted by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES). The mission is expected to explore the deep ocean for resources and at the same time, develop deep sea technologies that can be used for sustainable use of ocean resources. The move comes after the United Nations (UN) declared the upcoming ten years (2021-2030) as the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
As of now, around 95 per cent of the deep ocean remains unexplored. In the case of India, the country is surrounded by the ocean on three sides and has around 30 per cent of its population living in coastal areas. Therefore, the ocean is a major economic factor that supports fisheries and aquaculture, livelihoods, tourism, and blue trade, the government said in a statement. Apart from this, oceans are also a storehouse of energy, food, medicines, minerals, modulator of weather and climate and underpin life on Earth. Also, according to the government, India has a unique maritime position and there is a need to consider the importance of the oceans on sustainability.
The government is envisioning the new India by 2030 where the focus is also on the Blue Economy. To be sure, the Blue Economy can simply be known as economic opportunities that are related to marine ecosystems and oceans.
Cabinet approved ‘Deep Ocean Mission’ today. It will enable us to utilise sea resources including minerals hidden in the deep ocean, effectively and sustainably. It will also broaden our understanding of climate change. #CabinetDecisions
— Nitin Gadkari (@nitin_gadkari) June 16, 2021
The deep ocean mission has six major components:
- Ocean climate change advisory services: Under the mission, the government will work on development of models upon observations that will provide future projections of important climate variables. This will be made from seasonal to decadal time scales. This particular component will be supporting the “Blue Economy priority area of coastal tourism.”
- Technologies for deep sea mining, and manned submersible: The component is focused on developing a manned submersible that will be able to carry three people to a depth of 6000 metres in the ocean. Scientific sensors and tools can also be taken for an Integrated Mining System in order to conduct exploration services. Notably, there are only a few countries that have acquired this capability.
- Conducting deep ocean survey and exploration: The Indian government is trying to explore as well as identify potential sites that have multi-metal Hydrothermal Sulphides mineralization within the Indian Ocean mid-oceanic ridges.
- Technological innovations for exploration and conservation of deep-sea biodiversity: Under this component, the focus of the government will be “bioprospecting of deep sea flora and fauna” and also study how utilization of deep sea can be sustainable.
- Energy and freshwater from the ocean: For off-shore energy development, the aim under this component will be studying the detailed engineering design for offshore Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). This will also power a desalination plant.
- Advanced marine station for ocean biology. The marine stations will be formed to study ocean biology and engineering. “This component will translate research into industrial application and product development through on-site business incubator facilities,” the government said.
To put in perspective, the technologies needed for deep sea mining do have some strategic implications and as of now, they are not commercially available. In order to bridge this, the government claimed that it will attempt to indigenise technologies and for this, it will collaborate with leading institutes and private industries.
The mission has been given an estimated cost of Rs 4,077 crore for a period of 5 years. This will be implemented in a phased manner. The first three phases will utilise a cost of Rs 2,823.4 crore.