Deep Ocean Mission
We, humans, are highly inquisitive beings. Our journey to exploring this planet has no end. We have made immense progress in exploring space, but the world underwater remained untouched for long. It was only recently that a mission was launched to explore the world underneath, and efforts are being made to support the blue economy initiatives of the GOI. Deep Ocean Mission is an ambitious mission of the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India.
Deep Ocean Mission:
The ocean beds are a reservoir of endless facts, myths, gems, resources, and whatnot. In fact, you can say it is a treasure trove. Every country has its boundaries, limits, and authority over the sea and ocean or is called territory for security and resource mining. That means every country has limitations to using seas and oceans for researching, mining, discovery, or findings. The long coastline of approx. 7500 km, India draws unlimited benefits from these natural resources to fulfill its needs. The huge ports enable an easy flow of trade and navigation and push the blue economy to another level.
What is Blue Economy?
A Blue Economy is the proper use of ocean resources in sustainable ways to encourage economic growth, improve livelihoods and employment, and protect ocean ecosystems. It gives an inclusive model enabling the coastal nations to fetch the benefits from the ocean and sea resources.
The exclusive Economic Zone of India widely spreads over an area of 2.2 million sq. km which is still unexplored and unutilized. Adding words to the above lines, the ocean beds have a lot to give for better livelihood and economy. Also, understanding what the ocean and seas are holding inside can help understand the reasons for climate change and find ways to mitigate the crisis associated with the same.
More to Know About Deep Ocean Mission:
All the information obtained from this deep ocean mission will surely help in addressing the changes (long-term) in the water bodies because of climatic changes. The point areas cover the technological development for deep-sea exploration, findings related to exploitation of biodiversity and mineral resources, gearing up the development of underwater robotics and vehicles, development of advisory services related to ocean climate changes, and bringing more innovations for sustainable usage of marine bio-resources and renewable energy generation.
- It comes under central sector scheme
- This mission will cover all those segments which as untouched yet.
- Two main projects have been added to this mission that is a submersible vehicle that can be used to explore a range of approx. 6000 mtrs inside and a desalination plant.
- This mission will be conducted using both manpower and robotic power.
- All the technological advancements related to this mission will be properly funded by govt under the scheme of O-SMART (Ocean Services, Technology, Observations, Resources Modelling, and Science)
Significance of Deep Ocean Mission:
This mission is important for the nation as it will help India develop and enhance the capabilities for exploiting the available resource in the CIOB, Central Indian Ocean Basin, which is around 75000 sq. kilometers (as approved by UN international SeaBed Authority). The major objective of this mission is to mine and dig out PMN.
India and Deep Ocean Mission:
Along with many countries like France, China, Germany, Russia, South Korea, and Japan, India has even taken a significant measure regarding ocean missions. The Indian government in 2019 has started a plan worth ₹8,000-crore to thoroughly explore the ocean depth for fulfilling the multidimensional aims like an exploration of resources (metals and minerals). Moreover, UN International Sea Bed Authority has allotted India a 75,000 sq. km. site in the CIOB (Central Indian Ocean Basin) for PMN (polymetallic nodules) exploitation.
Note: Utilizing just 10 percent of the polymetallic nodules reserve available in the given area, the nation can easily meet the country’s energy requirement for the coming 100 years.
What is Polymetallic Nodules (PMN):
PMN has even termed manganese nodules which are potato-shaped and found in abundance at the sea beds. They are largely porous nodules containing elements like iron, manganese, nickel, cobalt, lead, iron, vanadium, cadmium, etc. Here are a few points describing PMN:
- These are Fe-Mn oxide deposits at sea and ocean beds.
- They mainly range from 2 cm to 10 cm in diameter.
- Their appearance sign is its blacky earthy colour.
- These nodules are considered to be a great source of precious minerals like silver, gold, and so on.
- PMN is considered to be the precipitate of hot magma fluids from inside the sea bed crust.
- They are discharged through a few mineralized passages.
Mining of Polymetallic Nodules (PMN):
You cannot just mine anywhere in search of PMN. You are authorised to mine only certain locations. Those countries which intend to step ahead on PMN mining need to get approvals from the ISA which was established under UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).
India gained Pinoor investor status in 1987 and indeed was the first country with such recognition. For mining PMN, India was assigned an area of 1.5 lakh sq. Kilometer that time. But in 2002, India was assigned 75,000 sq. Kilometer area after a resource analysis conducted by ISA.
There is a certain conclusion drawn after the research conducted by the Ministry of Earth Science. Here is the conclusion:
- PNM that can be found: 880 MT (approx.)
- Cobalt: 0.55 MT (approx.)
- Copper: 4.29 MT (approx.)
- Magnesium: 92.59 MT (approx.)
- Nickel: 4.7 MT (approx.)
Objectives of Deep Ocean Mission:
- Achieving long-term solutions for issues related to climate change and changes to the ocean
- For the development of technologies for ocean exploration of living and nonliving resources
- For the development of underwater vehicles and robotics
- Advisory services related to ocean climate change
- Finding innovative methods for saving marine bioresources through technological innovation and conservation
- Desalination techniques based on offshore technology
- To develop techniques for generating renewable energy
Environmental Impact of Deep Ocean Mission:
Anything that we do, directly or indirectly, affects mother earth. To better our life and fulfill the current livelihood scenario, we cover an extra mile that adversely affects the environment. The same is the condition with this Deep Ocean Mission. Environmentalists have shown a major concern toward this mission which is being conducted by many nations. One of the major concerns arises with the field’s uncertainty as this section has been unexplored till now, so no one is sure about the repercussions. Other possible causes for concern include sediment plumes created by mining and oil spills caused by mining.
Even though of the possible challenges, India seems to have a positive approach towards it and is positive about their research. Waiting for big revelations that can come out only after the mission takes off and the deep ocean research commences. One of the predictable wonders can be as the ocean bed has a very low temperature, so one can come across many species that have the capabilities of surviving even in the worst weather climate.
Note: Every single activity performed under this Deep Ocean Mission will follow all the rules prescribed by the ISA. These rules ensure that no harm will be caused to the underwater biodiversity.
After knowing what exactly this deep ocean mission is all about and what is the objective behind it, one should be known that this mission is laid exactly like how ISRO works in space. The main focus remains on studying and exploring the ocean beds of our nation to find the undiscovered nonliving and living entities for better survival and fulfilling the livelihood necessities.