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Will blue economy make India great again?

Will blue economy make  India great again?

By Preeti Kanojia

Panaji, Goa, Nov 22 (UNI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi once spoke about the prospects of blue economy, being considered to be the ultimate source of revenue in future; however there is an urgent need to understand whether the fastest developing nation was ready with the sophisticated technology to achieve this goal.

The concept of ocean or blue economy is not new as the Indian scientists started mapping the minerals and other resources in the oceans 40 years back. As a result, the focus is now shifting towards the source of the blue economy -- the oceans -- for food, minerals, energy, gas, water, medicines, etc. The scarcity of resources of the surface of earth is yet another reason.

The National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) in Goa’s Dona Paula region is one of the science laboratories in India where research on ocean resources has been carried out for last several years.

Senior scientist at NIO, Dr Sanil Kumar, told UNI that researchers had started marking mineral reserves in various places in the deep seas in 1980s but there was no significant progress on this due to lack of finance, technology and support from the state.

'The need of the hour is to tap the new resources in view of the vanishing resources. And, the oceans have the answers. They have everything we need. In fact, oceans are the only option available for humankind in future.'

Several countries have much more advanced technology for deep sea missions and they already have expanded their research in the international waters. However, India’s operation is confined to the Indian Ocean. India initiated its campaign for the exploration of deep sea mission in 1981 and after 75 expeditions and collecting 11,000 samples and surveying almost 3-million square kilometres of the area, NIO Goa has eventually retained an area of 75000 sqkm, with exclusive rights for deep sea mining.

The deep sea mining has not been initiated anywhere in the world, however several companies and contractors are in the process of designing a deep sea mining system.

As regards India, it being among the first eight investors in the world, aims at getting an area of 1,50,000 sqkm in international waters by the International Seabed Authority, out of which exclusive 75,000 sqkm is retained for future exploration.

India was the first pioneer investor in the world to be allocated exclusive right of an area of 1,50,000 sqkm in the international waters where 75,000 sqkm is retained for future exploration.

Earth Sciences Ministry is working as the nodal agency in International Seabed Authority (ISA). Dr Sanil Kumar said that Council of Scientific Industrial Research (CSIR), National Institute of Oceanography (NIO Goa), National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT Chennai), National Metallurgical Laboratory (Jamshedpaur) and Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology (Bhubaneshwar) are all working together for ocean technology development.

The blue project is bifurcated mainly in two parts, deep sea mission that focuses on sea mining, research and mapping of minerals and energy sources; and coastal mission for the development of coastal areas, coastal environment, etc.

The NIO scientist said that the government has allocated budget of Rs 5,000-crore for the Deep Sea Mission for the period of next three years. He said the Deep Sea Mission covers surveys of marine biological diversity, live and inanimate substances, origins of medicines from the sea, receiving food from the sea while the development of coasts under the coastal campaign and the form of model shores in developing, changes in coastal areas, surveying changes coming from rising pollution in coastal areas.

Dr Kumar said that they had been working to identify areas where precious minerals were available for the last several years. Important minerals have been identified in Maharashtra's Ratnagiri area, Kerala and Visakhapatnam."

Dr Kumar said earlier the companies were not showing interest in mining deep in the ocean, but now many companies have come forward for mining in the deep sea and one block has already been leased for mining.

The precious minerals found in the deep ocean are mostly those which will be the alternatives of metals in the future. Thet include platinum, magnet, zircon, rutile, ilmenite, garnet, cornendam, cobalt, nickel, copper, etc. Amanite in Ratnagiri, Monajite and Jirkon and Vishakhapatnam in the sea of Kerala have been identified with abundant reserves of Garnet.

According to a UN report, Fisheries and Marine Life 2014, 10-12 per cent of the world's population can be provided with the sea employment in which 90 per cent of jobs would be for small fish farmers in the developing countries.

Significant work has been done in this direction at the National Maritime Institute located in Goa surrounded by sea. The Chief Minister, Manohar Parrikar, believes that the possibilities of maritime economy in the country are amazing. He said, "India can get a lot of revenues from the sea and if we discover the precious stones and minerals found in our ocean, then India will be the richest country in the world."

On the question of blue economy, Union Science and Research Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said, "We are working to develop the blue economy. There are immense possibilities in the sea, in addition to mining of sea energy, fish production, mineral production, making sea water potable and developing coastal under coastal mission, Nio-like institution is working."

About the budget, he said: "This is a big level plan and whatever work will be done, the government will provide finance for them. The concerned agencies are working to allow mining in foreign waters and India will be moving towards becoming a world guru in the future."

However, this experiment of scientists has reached the research level only and it will take time to become a reality at the grassroots level.

At the same time, there is also the question how much devastation by mining will cause harm in the sea. When asked about this, Senior Scientist Rahul Sharma said, "Mining can damage the land, but the process of mining in the sea will be completely different. The minerals will be collected from the bottom of the sea instead of digging."


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