Q) Despite several advancements, India has not been able to fully utilize its Exclusive Economic Zone(EEZ). Enumerate the challenges in this regard. How can Deep Ocean Project help in this regard? (250 Words)
GS 3: Mobilization of resources
Introduction: An exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is an area of the sea in which a sovereign state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind. A 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea prescribes 200 nautical miles region into the seas from the baseline(coastline) as an EEZ. India has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of more than 2 million sq km wherein India enjoy the exclusive legal right to utilize all living and non-living resources.
However, India has not been able to fully utilize its EEZ.
Challenges in the utilization of EEZ:
1. Inadequate data: The seabed and the oceans can have variety of resources such as Gas Hydrates, Poly-metalling nodules, Cobalt, Hydrothermal Sulphides and Petroleum crude. For this India would require to conduct large scale studies.
2. Exploration & Mining Technology: Collection of data would require a variety of ocean mapping techniques including satellite imaging, Geo-scientific studies etc. To mine at 5 to 6km depth would require specialized technology.
3. Environmental Consequences: The sea-floor is relatively untouched fragile ecosystem which needs to be protected by adverse impact of mining
4. Biodiversity mapping: It is necessary to map the marine flora and fauna, not only to understand the fishing resources, but also to sustainably manage them. Globally only 11% of marine species have been identified. The deep ocean species are even less explored.
5. Licencing mechanism: Once the resources are mapped, there have to be licencing mechanism dedicated to the sea-floor mining and Ocean fishing
6. Defining boundaries: An Indian continental shelf project commenced in 1999 to delineate the outer limits of the Indian continental shelf. This would be important for Indian fishermen too who are often caught by the Sri Lankan and Pakistani Navy.
7. Funding: The mining and surveying operations are assigned a very small budget. In order to utilize these resources, more funding shall be required.
8. Defending sovereign rights: recently US's 7th fleet conducted a patrol in the Indian EEZ in the western Indian Ocean and demanded navigational rights. Similarly, Pakistan and Lankan Fishermen fishing in Indian EEZ is violation of Indian sovereign rights over the region's resources.
In this context, the Union government in its budget of 2021-22 announced the Deep Ocean mission with an outlay of ?4000 Crore and an objective to understand the marine living and non-living resources. It would be run by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES)
Advantages of Deep Ocean Mission:
1. Data on bio-diversity: This mission will cover deep ocean survey exploration and projects for the conservation of deep sea bio-diversity.
2. Climate Change: 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.
3. Development of Exploration Technology: 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.
4. Exploration of Resources: It would look for resources such as Gas hydrates to make up for India's increasing energy needs.
5. Mineral Exploration: India already mines polymetallic nodules in the Central Indian Ocean Basin in a area of 1.5Lakh sqkm. These help in producing manganese, nickel, cobalt, copper and iron hydroxide. The metals are useful in manufacturing of electronic devices, smartphones, batteries and solar panels.
Conclusion: This is for the first time that the Ministry of Earth Science is developing advance technologies for exploration of the deep sea. The mission is under steady progress with rover being ready for under-water exploration. However more is needed to be done by ensuring in ensuring sovereign rights in Indian EEZ by creating awareness among the Indian fishermen etc.