Project Samundrayaan – Deep Ocean Mission

The Samudrayaan program, also known as the Deep Ocean mission, is an attempt by  India to launch an exploration of the deep ocean, focused on economic zones and the continental shelf of India. The project would contain many manned and unmanned submersibles searching the sea bed.

The most crucial target of the Mission is to explore and find polymetallic nodules that are made of minerals like nickel, copper, manganese and iron hydroxide. All of this help make smartphones, electronic devices, solar panels and batteries.

The International Seabed Authority has allocated a site of 75,000 km2 (29,000 sq mi) to India in the Central Indian Ocean Basin to explore polymetallic nodules from seabed.

Reasons for the Project

It is calculated that there are about 380 million tonnes of polymetallic nodules in the total area allotted to India. Furthermore, it contains 4.29 million tonnes of copper, 4.7 million tonnes of nickel, 92.59 million manganese, and 0.55 million cobalt.

An approximated cost of the Mission is around Rs. 4077 crore over a period of 5 years to be executed, step by step. Through this, India plans to send a team of three people in deep-sea up to a depth of 6 km in the Indian ocean.

The ‘Samudrayaan’ project undertaken by the NIOT, Chennai, is in line with the ISRO’s ambitious Gaganyaan mission of sending an astronaut to space by 2022.

The success of the ‘Samudrayaan’ will help India to join the league of developed nations in the exploration of minerals from oceans, Atmanand, head of NIOT, said.

The ‘Samudrayaan’ is a part of the Ministry of Earth Sciences’ pilot project for deep ocean mining for rare minerals.

Union Minister Jitendra Singh said: “Launched India’s First Manned Ocean Mission #Samudrayan at #Chennai. India joins an elite club of select nations USA, Russia, Japan, France & China having such underwater vehicles.

What is NIOT?

The National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) was formed in November 1993. It is an autonomous institution and comes under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India. A Governing Council manages it, and its head of the Institute is a Director.

The primary aim of the formation of NIOT is to create indigenous technologies to solve problems associated with the harvesting of non-living and living resources in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ. It is about two-thirds of the land area of India.

How it all began

 In India, study of the ocean started when the Government-sponsored program on polymetallic nodules (PMN) commenced at CSIR with the collection of the first nodule sample from Arabian Sea on board the first research vessel Gaveshani on 26 January 1981.

The International Seabed Authority (ISA), an international autonomous organization formed in 1982, allotted the area for deep-sea mining. In 1987, India was the first country to achieve the status of a ‘Pioneer Investor’. Hence, they were allocated an area of about 1.5 lakh sq km in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) for nodule exploration.

The data was based on a survey carried out by the scientists of CSIR-NIO on various research ships leading to the allocation of an area of 150,000 km2 (58,000 sq mi) to the country with exclusive rights under the UN law of the sea.

India signed a contract with the ISA in 2002, and after a complete resource analysis of the seabed, the country retained an area of 75,000 sq km, and almost 50% of the room was surrendered.

Exclusive Economic Zones

More studies have helped in narrowing the mining area to 18,000 sq km, and it will be the ‘First Generation Mine-site’. Also, India has an Exclusive Economic zone that measures around 2,200,000 km2 (850,000 sq mi) and is unexplored and unutilized.

Exclusive Economic zones are boundaries authorized by the United Nations Convention on the sea regulations that give the rights to any country for the exploration and use of marine resources.

It is calculated that 380 million metric tonnes of PMN are present at the bottom of the seas in the central Indian Ocean. Hence, even if 10% of that is recovered, India can meet its energy requirement for the next 100 years.

Keeping this fact in mind, the central government has made a five-year plan, at a total cost of ₹8000 crores, for mining, research, and study of the ocean depth.

The aim of the plan includes research work that would make a roadmap on climate change and help create a desalination plant powered by tidal energy.