India in search of ocean bounty
India plans to expand its oceanography research, tapping into the wealth of the little-explored Indian and Southern Oceans, writes K. S. Jayaraman in this Nature article.
Exploring these oceans could yield bounties in terms of information and resources. Both oceans play an important role in the formation of the Indian monsoon and could also harbour submerged deposits of copper, nickel, manganese and cobalt.
In 2006, India's government created the Ministry of Earth Sciences to promote ocean exploration and science. The ministry has 8,000 scientists and US$240 million to spend in its first year, and will also cover programmes in meteorology, climate, environment, seismology and polar research.
The government has also purchased a deep-sea research vessel and an unmanned submersible to investigate the possibility of expanding the country's deep-sea mining projects.
Critics warn that India is watering down the potency of its efforts by being secretive about its oceanographic data. It is also lacking in people willing to study and work in ocean science.
But with its imminent acceptance into the Integrated Ocean Drilling Programme — a coalition of 17 European countries, Japan and the United States — India can pool resources with other seabound countries and its research will begin to swell.