February 2, 2021 12:42:58 am
India has embarked on a major mission aimed at improving understanding about oceans, its biodiversity and impact of climate change, along with development and demonstration of technology to undertake future ocean explorations.
On Monday, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced an allocation of over Rs 4,000 crore over the next five years for the Deep Ocean Mission. This is in addition to the Rs 1,897 crore allocated for the ministry in the current financial year.
“Our oceans are a storehouse of living and non-living resources. This Mission will cover deep ocean survey exploration and projects for the conservation of deep sea bio-diversity,” said Sitharaman.
This inter-ministerial and inter-departmental mission, planned over the next five years, will see collaboration of researchers and experts from institutions operating under the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Defence Development and Research Organisation (DRDO), Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Indian Navy.
Speaking to The Indian Express on Monday on the importance of the mission, M Rajeevan, secretary of MoES, said, “We do not know much about our oceans. We hardly have knowledge of about 5 per cent of the explored deep oceans. There are several unexplored areas, including biodiversity, and our work under this mission will concentrate on the Indian Ocean region.”
Flanked by the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean on its three sides, India has a vast coastline measuring over 7,517 km, with nine coastal states and 1,382 islands dependent on the seas. As much as 95 per cent of India’s trade is handled via these seas.
The Deep Ocean Mission, which is part of the Blue Economy envisioned to be developed by 2030, will place India among select countries — US, France, Japan, Russia and China — to have special missions dedicated for ocean studies.
The launch of this mission is being seen as a strategic and geo-political move in order to further strengthen India’s position in the Indian Ocean region. Several learnings from this mission, experts share, will unearth vital information from the deep ocean and have a number of applications in areas including marine biodiversity, minerals, effects of climate change on biodiversity and a host of others.
Studies are planned at depths close to 6,000 metres under six major components — mineral exploration on the sea-bed; study and mapping of biodiversity; study of climate change; exploration of marine biology and developing allied courses, training; development and demonstration of ocean exploration and off-shore technologies for future.
The mission will be spearheaded by the MoES in collaboration with an UN organisation for mineral exploration. The same body is also responsible in identifying areas for exploration in the region.
Though MoES operates desalination plants in Lakshadweep, the off-shore technology planned under the Deep Ocean Mission will allow researchers to explore alternate ways in this area, for which laboratory-based experiments and simulations are planned.
The cabinet approval for the mission is awaited and a formal launch is expected in a couple of months from now, said Rajeevan.
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