KOCHI: The Ministry of Earth Sciences is waiting for the investment clearance from the Ministry of Finance for the Rs 8,000-crore Deep Ocean Mission, a flagship project focusing on six areas having critical importance in economic development and environmental understanding. Speaking to this newspaper on the sidelines of a three-day international conference on benthos (flora and fauna in sea and lakes) at the Cochin University of Science and Technology on Wednesday, Mr M. Rajeevan, secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, said a detailed project report of the mission had been completed and in-principle clearance from the finance ministry was expected soon.
Stressing the importance of the mission as a key strategic imperative, he said the five-year project will focus on six areas which include development of technologies for deep sea mining, underwater vehicles and underwater robotics. The school of Marine Sciences, CUSAT, will play an important role in the mission, he added.
An international training centre for marine taxonomy will be established in Kochi under the Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology to provide a platform for career development and employment opportunities for young researchers, he said.
Dr. Rajeevan said after inaugurating the conference on benthos that the marine environment faced growing threats from climate change, pollution and mindless fishing. "About 8.8 million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans every year and make up 80 percent of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments," he said.
The Union government will launch a major initiative on blue economy with Niti Aayog being engaged in preparing a comprehensive report on the subject. Blue economy covering everything linked to sea, oceans and water-bodies assumes prominence as the cost of resource-intensive, high carbon and environment-polluting industrial activities is becoming unsustainable, he said.
The Indian Meteorological Department is seized of the need for state-specific monsoon forecasts in view of the increasing trends of spatial disparities in rainfall and other climatic events, Dr Rajeevan said. The IMD already provides state-specific inputs to the governments concerned, he added. Coastal areas were facing vulnerabilities due to the impact of the climate change that calls for appropriate policy initiatives, including changes in habitat patterns, he said.
The seminar is being attended by leading scholars from India and abroad. Benthos refers to the flora and fauna on the bottom or in bottom sediments in sea and lakes....