Deep Ocean Mission - Launch Date, Significance, and Goals

By Shivank Goel|Updated : September 20th, 2022

Deep Ocean Mission was announced in the Union Budget 2020-21. The National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) will carry out the mission under the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES). The deep ocean is poorly explored due to technological challenges. It is also the least understood region on Earth.

The knowledge gained through this mission will help India explore and harness these resources sustainably with minimal ecological impact. The mission will also help better understand climate change, cyclones, and tsunamis. We know little about how this region may respond to climate change or global warming. India's Deep Ocean Mission will help us understand how these changes may affect life on land and our weather patterns.

Table of Content

India's Deep Ocean Mission - Overview

India has announced an Rs 8,000 crore Deep Ocean Mission (DOM) to explore and exploit the abundant resources of the ocean.

  • The UN International Sea Bed Authority approved the DOM, which will focus on areas from deep-sea mining to marine biotechnology.
  • It is a long-term oceanographic program focusing on harnessing its resources and protecting the marine environment.
  • It will create a national framework for conducting multidisciplinary ocean research, including deep-sea mining and mineral prospecting.
  • India's Deep Ocean Mission will also help India build its oceanic exploration capabilities and develop data collection and resource exploitation technology.
  • Under the Ministry for Earth Sciences, the Department of Ocean Development will implement the project.
  • The Minister for Earth Sciences said the mission would generate substantial employment opportunities in many areas, including deep-sea exploration.

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Deep Ocean Mission PIB - Significance

India's coastline is about 7,500 km long, and its exclusive economic zone in the Indian Ocean covers roughly 2.2 million square kilometers. Given this vast expanse, India must understand the oceans better.

  • India is gearing up to explore the ocean depths with India's Deep Ocean Mission launch.
  • The project aims to boost scientific knowledge and ocean-based economic activity.
  • The deep ocean mission comes under the Earth Sciences ministry, also called the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).

What is the Need for DOM?

  • India is blessed with 2.2 million square kilometers of an Exclusive Economic Zone. And its deep-sea is "unexplored and unutilized" to date that contains polymetallic nodules or rare-earth metals.
  • The estimated recovery of 10% of the sea resources can meet India's energy needs for the subsequent 100 years.
  • An independent association founded in 1982, The International Seabed Authority (ISA), United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), permits the 'area' for deep-sea mining.
  • In 1987, India became a 'Pioneer Investor. ' The ISA issued approximately 1.5 lakh sq kilometers in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) to research the nodules (rocks containing manganese and iron hydroxides around a center).
  • In 2002, after an entire resource study of the ocean bed, 50% was abandoned, and the country maintained an area of 75,000 sq km.
  • The 'First Generation Mine-site' narrowed mining site to 18,000 sq km through further analyses and evaluations.
  • Polymetallic nodules have been recognized from the central Pacific Ocean. It is called the Clarion-Clipperton Zone.
  • ISA has joined into 15-year agreements for exploring polymetallic nodules, sulfides, and ferromanganese crusts, which are rich in cobalt.
  • It got expanded for five more years till 2022.
  • South Korea, Russia, France, Germany, China, Japan, and some little islands such as Kiribati and the Cook Islands have joined the competition for deep-sea mining.
  • Many nations have experimented with their automation in surface waters and are yet to begin extracting deep-marine.

Progress of the DOM

  • Remotely operable submersible (ROSUB 6000) capable of operating at depths of 6,000 meters has already been developed and tested successfully up to 5,289 meters depth.
  • Remotely operable in-situ soil testing equipment has also been developed for getting detailed geotechnical properties of the mining area at the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB).
  • Setting up coastal marine observatories for monitoring marine pollution, early warning systems for ocean disasters, and acquisition of coastal research vessels under the scheme Ocean Services, Technology, Observations, Resources Modelling and Science (O-SMART), etc.

Benefits of DOM

India is a developing country with a vast population. It has to serve the ever-growing demands of people and Fastrack economic development. Deep-sea exploration may solve many of the problems facing today:

  • Extraction of rare earth metals can be used in electronic devices, smartphones, batteries, and even solar panels, which may help India to become a world Electronic Manufacturing Hub.
  • Help in exploiting tidal energy and resources, thereby harnessing sustainable energy sources.
  • Ocean research can help predict earthquakes and tsunamis.
  • May find new sources for medical drugs, food, and other product.
  • Besides identifying the mineral resource and developing technologies for mining and extraction, the program has also resulted in high-impact research and workforce development.
  • It will improve India's position in the ocean research field.

Deep Ocean Drilling Project

  • Deep Ocean Drilling Project is one of the three International scientific Ocean drilling programs that has served its operation for more than 4 decades.
  • The Atlantic Ocean has the deepest drilling of 10000 feet under the water.

Goals of Deep Ocean Mission

India is set to launch a significant exploration of the ocean floor to harness the enormous untapped resource potential of the deep seas.

Deep-sea mining:

  • India plans to mine polymetallic nodules from the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) in 2025.
  • These nodules are rich in copper, nickel, and cobalt.
  • The Deep Sea Mining Unit (DSMU), responsible for this project, has identified three sites in CIOB for exploration.

Marine Bio Search:

  • This component aims to improve marine biodiversity research by exploring deep-sea organisms and their bioactive molecules.
  • It will also focus on developing methods for drug discovery from marine sources.

Ocean Observation:

  • This component will focus on observing ocean currents and changes in the deep sea due to climate change or human interventions.
  • The government announced India's deep ocean mission name to expand its maritime capabilities.
  • The center has finalized a broad framework of a new mission to strengthen India's presence on the high seas and tap the resources on the seabed.

Components of Deep Ocean Mission

There are six main components of India's Deep Ocean Mission. These are-

Development Of Technology For Deep Sea Mining:

  • With a scientific sensor and tool collection, a submersible will reach a depth of 6000 m in the sea.
  • Few countries have only attained this ability.
  • The polymetallic nodules will also be mined using the combined mining system from the depth of 6000 m in the central Indian ocean.
  • Upon developing a commercial exploitation code by the international ocean bed authority, a UN organization, the investigation studies of minerals save the route for commercial exploitation.
  • This component will benefit the blue economy priority area by researching and harnessing deep-sea minerals and energy.

Development of Ocean Climate Change Advisory Services:

  • As a part of this proof of Concept component, the observations and a few models will be developed to know the crucial climate variables at the seasonal and decadal scales.
  • It will add an extra benefit to promoting tourism in the coastal area due to the blue economy.

Technology Innovation For Exploration And Conservation Of Deep-Sea Biodiversity:

  • The primary focus of the portion mission will be bioprospecting flora and fauna in the deep sea, including the microbes, and studying how to use deep-sea mining to find bio-resources.
  • This blue economy element will help sea fisheries and associated services.

Deep Ocean Survey And Exploration:

  • Identifying and exploring the multi-metal hydrothermal sulfide mineralization sides near the Indian Ocean mid-oceanic ridges is the primary objective of this component.
  • Furthermore, the deep-sea exploration of ocean resources is another priority area of the blue economy.

Energy And Fresh Water From The Ocean:

  • Given proof of Concept proposal contemplates an Offshore ocean thermal energy conservation forward desalination plant.
  • This part will sustain offshore energy development by contributing to the blue economy priority area.

Advanced Marine Station For Ocean Biology:

  • This component aims to develop ocean biology, Engineering capacity, and enterprise.
  • A business incubator facility will help translate the research into the industrial application and product expansion.
  • In addition to supporting Marine Biology, blue commerce, and blue production, this component adds value to the blue economy initiatives.

How will Deep Ocean Mission be conducted?

India's Deep Ocean Mission will explore the bottom of the Indian Ocean and further India's indigenization and technology development.

  • It is India's first mission to explore the deep sea.
  • It will be undertaken by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) in collaboration with other central ministries, departments of state governments, and research institutions.
  • The mission aims to harness ocean resources for sustainable economic growth.
  • The project will collect data through surveys using vessels, submersibles, and Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs).
  • Under this initiative, India will develop technology for deep-sea mining, exploration of energy resources, and marine biotechnology.
  • It will also develop technologies for deep-sea mining and the exploration of energy resources.
  • When marine pollution increases due to the dumping of plastic waste in the oceans, India's Deep Ocean Mission seeks to protect this natural resource and use technological innovations to enhance the exploration and exploitation of ocean resources.

Environmental Impacts of Deep Ocean Mission

  • Ocean mining conducted in several countries has been a significant concern for many environmentalists.
  • Because this field is unexplored, it is essential to predict its repercussions.
  • Due to mining practices and consequent oil spills in many countries, the sediment plumes may have formed and can cause serious concerns.
  • As soon as the mission takes off and the research begins, India seems optimistic about its results and analysis.
  • Another important fact related to it is that since the temperature at the profound depth of the ocean is shallow, most species that can survive in extreme conditions can be discovered with the help of deep ocean missions.
  • As a part of India's Deep Ocean Mission, all the activities performed follow ISA regulations and ensure that biodiversity does not get disrupted.

India's Preparedness for Deep Ocean Mission 2022

  • There is shallow temperature and high pressure at India's mining site, located at a depth of 5500 meters.
  • Also, the team has deployed remotely operated vehicles to the depth of 6000 m in the central Indian ocean basin and comprehensively understands the mining areas.
  • The newly developed mining machine has moved approximately 900 m for 6000 m depth that will be deployed at 5500 m shortly.
  • It is essential to keep an eye on the weather conditions as the ship's availability and weather conditions also play a vital role in such missions.
  • An umbilical or electromechanical cable and a Horse Riser system are being developed to bring the nodules to the surface.

Deep Sea Mining

Deep sea mining is retrieving minerals deposited on the seas' beds. Most countries are competing with each other to meet the demand for metals.

  • Polymetallic Nodules can be mined underwater at specific locations.
  • The country must get it from ISA under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to gain authorization for Deep Sea Mining of PNM.
  • India became recognized as a "Pioneer Investor" in 1987 and was the first nation to receive this designation.
  • It was then given a 1.5 lakh square kilometer territory to mine PMN.
  • Following a resource appraisal in 2002, ISA gave India a 75,000 square kilometer area.

According to the Ministry of Earth Science's investigation, the following finding was discovered:

  • Potential polymetallic nodules can be found – at 880 MT (approximately)
  • Magnesium – 92.59 MT (approximately)
  • Cobalt – 0.55 MT (approximately)
  • Nickel – 4.7 MT (approximately)
  • Copper – 4.29 MT (approximately)

Challenges of Deep Ocean Mission

  • More studies are being carried out to comprehend how the technology can be mounted up and utilized efficiently; on the other different environmental problems.
  • DOM requires huge research, development, and technology expenses as it involves state-of-the-art technologies that pressure submersibles to carry individuals or remote-controlled automobiles.
  • The deep sea's biodiversity and ecology remain poorly understood, making it hard to consider the environmental effect and adequate guidelines.
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared these isolated places could be dwelling to uncommon species acclimating to environmental conditions such as sunlight, elevated pressure, insufficient oxygen, and temperatures.
  • Deep-sea mining can cause species to vanish before they are even understood by science.
  • Environmentalists also worry about the deposit plumes induced as the suspended particles can ascend to the surface, damaging the filter tributaries in the ocean's upper layers.
  • Additional concerns about the light and noise pollution from the oil spills and mining motorcars from the working ships have been raised.
  • Greenpeace says only 1% of international waters are properly protected from multiple industrial activities without a global ocean treaty.
  • DOM undermines progress toward UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12, which aims to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns of energy and resources, and SDG 14, which aims to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources.
  • ISA says DOM will be commercially viable only if about three million tonnes are mined annually.
  • It leads to greater exploitation of the resources that aggravate ecological concerns.
  • No clarity about the consequences of deep-sea mining and explorations in the future.
Other Important UPSC Notes
Essential Commodities Act 1955SATAT Initiative
Horizontal and Vertical ReservationCAMPA Act
Sanyasi RevoltSattriya Dance of Assam

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FAQs on Deep Ocean Mission India

  • India's Deep Ocean Mission aims to develop technologies for deep-sea mining, ocean energy, and ocean food resources, besides boosting underwater robotics, marine biotechnology, and climate data. 

    • It also has plans to revive an abandoned submarine program. 
    • The undersea technology is expected to be used in defense and surveillance, oil and gas exploration, oceanography, and maritime archaeology.
  • India's Deep Ocean Mission aims to position India as a global leader in deep-sea exploration and utilization by 2030. It will also help strengthen India's coastal security and national economic growth.

  • India's Deep Ocean Mission seeks to explore the ocean bed almost 6000 meters into the ocean.

  • Deep-sea mining, marine bio search, and ocean observation are the top 3 goals of India's Deep Ocean Mission.

  • The Samudrayaan is a project in which a scientific submersible is supposed to be developed to explore the deep ocean and give the required information.

    • Ocean Thermal Energy conversion refers to extracting energy from the ocean beds using the temperature differences from the surface to the ocean bed. 
    • The warmer surface of the water is pressurized in a hollow vacuum space where it is turned into steam which further charges the turbine in an open-cycle process. 
    • Later, this steam is condensed using the cold ocean water from the lower depth of the oceans.
  • Seychelles is the first country that issue sovereign blue bonds. The blue bond is a debt instrument issued by the government's organization and different banks to raise funds for ocean and Marine based projects.

  • The launch date of the deep ocean mission was in October 2021, when India joined the privileged club of nations.

  • The Java Trench is the deepest portion of the Indian Ocean, at 24,442 feet (7,450 meters) in Indonesia.

  • Under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, the deep ocean mission was approved by the Union Cabinet.

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