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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 30 October, 2021

  • 15 Min Read

Deep Ocean Mission and Sagar Nidhi

About Deep Ocean Mission

The Union Cabinet has approved the long-pending deep ocean mission, which among other things involves developing a submersible vehicle that will allow a crew to plunge 6,000 metres into the ocean and hunt the floor for precious metals.

  • The Deep Ocean Mission was in 2019 envisaged as a Rs. 8,000 crore mission.
  • India has been allotted a site of 75,000 square kilometres in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by the UN International Sea Bed Authority for exploitation of polymetallic nodules (PMN).
  • These are rocks scattered on the seabed containing iron, manganese, nickel and cobalt.

  • Funding: In the works since 2018, the mission is expected to cost ?4,077 crore over the next five years. The estimated cost for the first phase of three years (2021-24) would be ?2,823.4 crore.
  • Nodal Ministry: The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) will be the nodal Ministry implementing this multi-institutional mission.

There are 6 components to the programme:

  • Submersible Vehicle: A manned submersible will be developed to carry 3 people to a depth of 6,000 metres in the ocean with a suite of scientific sensors and tools. An integrated mining system will be also developed for mining polymetallic nodules at those depths in the central Indian Ocean.
  • Ocean Climate Change Advisory Services: The second component involves developing Ocean Climate Change Advisory Services, which entails developing a suite of observations and models to understand and provide future projections of important climate variables on seasonal to decadal time scales.
  • Flora and Fauna: The next component is searching for deep sea flora and fauna, including microbes, and studying ways to sustainably utilise them.
  • Hydrothermal minerals: The fourth component is to explore and identify potential sources of hydrothermal minerals that are sources of precious metals formed from the earth’s crust along the Indian Ocean mid-oceanic ridges.
  • Desalination and OTEC: The fifth component involves studying and preparing detailed engineering design for offshore Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) powered desalination plants.
  • Expertise: The final component is aimed at grooming experts in the field of ocean biology and engineering. This component aims to translate research into industrial applications and product development through on-site business incubator facilities.

Significance:

  • If this works, India will be among a handful of countries able to launch an underwater mission at such depths.
  • The exploration studies of minerals will pave way for the commercial exploitation in the near future, as and when commercial exploitation code is evolved by the International Seabed Authority, an United Nations organisation
  • Being able to lay hands on a fraction of that reserve can meet the energy requirement of India for the next 100 years.
  • The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has the mandate of providing weather, climate, Ocean and seismological services and to harness living and non-living resources. MoES is also involved in development of relevant Ocean Technology and Ocean Survey of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and deep oceans for minerals and energy. National Institute of Technology (NIOT) Chennai has the mandate to develop technologies for the sustainable harvesting living and non-living resources of the ocean.

  • NIOT has successfully developed and demonstrated the technologies like Desalination Plants for drinking water in Lakshadweep Islands, extracting energy from Oceans, Restoration of Beach in Puducherry, development of Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles (ROV) and mining machine for 5500 metre water depths. NIOT also has the mandate to deploy and maintain moored data buoys for the data collection that aids in the weather prediction, cyclone tracking and Tsunami Early Warning.

  • Research Vessel (Ships) is an important tool for ocean research and development of ocean technology. MoES has, at present 6 ships, SagarNidhi, SagarManjusha, SagarKanya, SagarSampada, Sagar Tara &SagarAnveshika, which are used for many ocean studies and applications including ocean observations.

What is in the news?

  • India, a traditionally maritime country with rich maritime heritage, has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of about 2.37 million square kilometres wherein India enjoys the exclusive legal right to utilize all living and non-living resources. Apart from this, India has been allotted 75000 square kilometers in the Central Indian Ocean 10000 sqare kilometres in the Southern Indian Ocean by the International Seabed Authority. These areas are rich in minerals like Manganese, Cobalt and Nickel. For the sustainable harvesting of these non-living and living organisms we need to explore and understand the ocean.
  • SagarNidhi is exploring the ocean resources and participation in search and rescue operations, more specifically its importance for implementation of Deep Ocean Mission.
  • The vessel is capable of carrying out geo-scientific, meteorological and oceanographic research, and is designed with blue-water capability with ranges of up to 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km) for voyages lasting up to 45 days.

Source: PIB


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