Deep Ocean Mission

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved the proposal of Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) on "Deep Ocean Mission", with a view to explore deep ocean for resources and develop deep sea technologies for sustainable use of ocean resources.

The estimated cost of the Missionwill be Rs. 4077 crore for a period of 5 years to be implemented in a phase-wise manner. The estimated cost for the first phase for the 3 years (2021-2024) would be Rs.2823.4 crore. Deep Ocean Mission with be a mission mode project to support the Blue Economy Initiatives of the Government of India. Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) will be the nodal Ministry implementing this multi-institutional ambitious mission.

 

Deep Ocean Mission

Public research agency overview

Formed

2018

Jurisdiction

India

Annual budget

 ₹8,000 crore (US$1.1 billion) (FY20)

Minister responsible

  • Dr. Harsh Vardhan

Parent Public research agency

Ministry of Earth Sciences

 

The Deep Ocean Mission consists of the following six major components:

  • Development of Technologies for Deep Sea Mining, and Manned Submersible: A manned submersible will be developed to carry three people to a depth of 6000 metres in the ocean with suite of scientific sensors and tools. Only a very few countries have acquired this capability. An Integrated Mining System will be also developed for mining Polymetallic Nodules from 6000 m depth in the central Indian Ocean. 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 UN organization. This component will help the Blue Economy priority area of exploring and harnessing of deep sea minerals and energy. 
  • Development of Ocean Climate Change Advisory Services: A suite of observations and models will be developed to understand and provide future projections of important climate variables on seasonal to decadal time scales under this proof of concept component. This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of coastal tourism.
  • Technological innovations for exploration and conservation of deep-sea biodiversity: Bio-prospecting of deep sea flora and fauna including microbes and studies on sustainable utilization of deep sea bio-resources will be the main focus. This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of Marine Fisheries and allied services.
  • Deep Ocean Survey and Exploration: The primary objective of this component is to explore and identify potential sites of multi-metal Hydrothermal Sulphides mineralization along the Indian Ocean mid-oceanic ridges. This component will additionally support the Blue Economy priority area of deep sea exploration of ocean resources.
  • Energy and freshwater from the Ocean: Studies and detailed engineering design for offshore Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) powered desalination plant are envisaged in this proof of concept proposal. This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of off-shore energy development.
  • Advanced Marine Station for Ocean Biology. This component is aimed as development of human capacity and enterprise in ocean biology and engineering. This component will translate research into industrial application and product development through on-site business incubator facilities. This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of Marine Biology, Blue trade and Blue manufacturing.

 

The technologies required for deep sea mining have strategic implications and are not commercially available. Hence, attempts will be made to indigenise technologies by collaborating with leading institutes and private industries. A research vessel for deep ocean exploration would be built in an Indian shipyard which would create employment opportunities. This mission is also directed towards capacity development in Marine Biology, which will provide job opportunities in Indian industries. In addition, design, development and fabrication of specialised equipment, ships and setting up of required infrastructure are expected to spur the growth of the Indian industry, especially the MSME and Start-ups.

Oceans, which cover 70 per cent of the globe, remain a key part of our life. About 95 percent of Deep Ocean remains unexplored. For India, with its three sides surrounded by the oceans and around 30 per cent of the country's population living in coastal areas, ocean is a major economic factor supporting fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, livelihoods and blue trade. Oceans are also storehouse of food, energy, minerals, medicines, modulator of weather and climate and underpin life on Earth. Considering importance of the oceans on sustainability, the United Nations (UN) has declared the decade, 2021-2030 as the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. India has a unique maritime position. Its 7517 km long coastline is home to nine coastal states and 1382 islands. The Government of India's Vision of New India by 2030 enunciated in February 2019 highlighted the Blue Economy as one of the ten core dimensions of growth.

 

History

The study of the ocean in India began when the Government sponsored the program on polymetallic nodules (PMN) initiated at CSIR-NIO with the collection of the first nodule sample from Arabian sea on board the first research vessel Gaveshani on 26 January 1981.

The International Seabed Authority (ISA), an autonomous international organisation established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, alloted the ‘area’ for deep-sea mining. India was the first country to receive the status of a ‘Pioneer Investor ‘ in 1987 and was given an area of about 1.5 lakh sq km in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) for nodule exploration.

This was based on the extensive survey carried out by the scientists of CSIR-NIO on several research ships leading to the allocation of an area of 150,000 km2 (58,000 sq mi) to the country with exclusive right under the UN law of the sea.

India was the first country in the world, to have sponsored the exploration of deep sea mineral viz polymetallic nodules, in the central Indian Ocean basin in 1987.

In 2002, India signed a contract with the ISA and after complete resource analysis of the seabed 50% was surrendered and the country retained an area of 75,000 sq km.

Further studies have helped narrow the mining area to 18,000 sq km which will be the ‘First Generation Mine-site’.

 

Background

India has an Exclusive Economic zone allocated 2,200,000 km2 (850,000 sq mi) which is unexplored and unutilised.

Exclusive Economic zones are boundaries prescribed by the United nations Convention on the law of the sea which give the rights to a state regarding the exploration and use of marine resources.

India has been allocated a site of 150,000 km2 (58,000 sq mi) in Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by the United Nation's International Seabed Authority (ISA) for the exploitation of polymetallic nodules (PMN) which is an amalgamation of iron and manganese hydroxide.

It has been estimated that 380 million metric tonnes of PMN are available at the bottom of the seas in the central Indian Ocean.

It is estimated that 10% of recovery of that can meet India's energy requirement for next 100 years.

 

Goal and objectives

The centre has drawn up a five-year plan, with a cost of ₹8000 crore, to mine, research and study about the ocean floor.

The objectives of the plan include research work that can result in formation of a roadmap on climate change and help in developing a desalination plant powered by tidal energy.

 One of the key projects which can enable the above said research is the creation of a submersible vehicle that can explore depths of at least 6,000 m (20,000 ft).