What is it?
- It is an initiative spearheaded by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) in collaboration with ISRO, DRDO, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Indian Navy.
- The Indian government wants to understand the oceans better, both as a resource and for the conservation of marine biodiversity.
- One of the main aspects of the mission will be design, development and demonstration of human submersibles (in the image below).
- Another aspect is exploring the possibility of deep sea mining and developing necessary technologies.
- Under the mission, 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
- Off-shore technologies for future.
Significance of the mission
- The mission forms a part of the Blue Economy envisioned to be developed by 2030, which will place India among select countries — US, France, Japan, Russia and China — to have special missions dedicated for ocean studies.
- It is a strategic and geo-political move in order to further strengthen India’s position in the Indian Ocean region.
- Globally, only 11 percent of marine species have been identified. The deep ocean species are even less explored. Hence it will be helpful in identifying the species and knowing more about climate change.
- It will enable India to develop capabilities to exploit resources in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB).
- CIOB reserves contain deposits of metals like iron, manganese, nickel and cobalt. It is envisaged that 10% of recovery of that large reserve can meet the energy requirement of India for the next 100 years.
- India has also been allotted 75,000 square kilometres in the CIOB by the UN International Sea Bed Authority (ISA) for exploration of poly-metallic nodules.
- The ISA is an institution set up under the UN Convention on Law of the Sea to which India is a Party.
- Polymetallic nodules are rounded accretions of manganese and iron hydroxides that cover vast areas of the seafloor, but are most abundant on abyssal plains at water depths of 4000-6500 metres. They form through the aggregation of layers of iron and manganese hydroxides around a central particle (such as a shell or small rock fragment), and range in size from a few millimeters to tens of centimeters.
- Growth of these nodules is extremely slow, at a rate of millimetres per million years, and they remain on the seafloor surface, often partially buried in a thin layer of sediment.
- The composition of nodules varies with their environment of formation, but in addition to manganese and iron, they can contain nickel, copper and cobalt in commercially attractive concentrations as well as traces of other valuable metals such as molybdenum, zirconium and Rare Earth Elements. They are viewed as potential resources to take care of the depleting land resources and increasing demand of these metals.
Why in News?
- The National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) in Chennai is set to spearhead a 6,000-metre dive into the Indian Ocean under the Deep ocean mission to explore marine biodiversity and potential of the seabed.