Ministry of Earth Sciences Celebrates It’s Foundation Day

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Kalpana Palkhiwala*

Taking into account India’s vast coastline of about 7500 km. length and the fact that approximately 37% of India’s population live in the coastal areas, deriving benefits from the seas, the then Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi created the Department of Ocean Development as an independent Scientific Department on July 27, 1981. The Department was notified as the Ministry of Ocean Development (MoOD) in February 2006. Keeping in view the close interaction between Ocean, Atmosphere and Earth and the need to have an integrated scientific approach, the Government approved the formation of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), which came into being on 12th of July 2007 having the Department of Ocean Development, India Meteorological Department, India Institute of Tropical Meteorology & National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting, under it.

The Ministry of Earth Sciences aims to create a framework for understanding the complex interaction among key elements of the Earth System, namely ocean atmosphere and solid earth by encompassing the existing national programmes in meteorology, climate, environment and seismology. The mandate of the Ministry is to provide the Nation with the best possible services in forecasting the monsoon and other weather/climate parameters, ocean state, earthquakes, tsunamis and phenomenas related to earth systems through well integrated programmes and utilizing world class science and technology resources. In addition, the Ministry also works on science and technology for exploration and exploitation of ocean resources (living and non-living), and plays nodal role for Antarctic/Arctic and Southern Ocean Research. The Ministry plays a key role in disaster warning for Tsunami, oil spills, cyclones and storm surges.

During the course of last two decades, the Ministry has achieved several successes in the tasks assigned to it and is poised for making further impressive strides in the near future. Successful demonstration of 10 lakh liter per day desalination plant, Establishment of Tsunami Early Warning Centre at INCOIS, Hyderabad, 28 successful scientific trips to Antarctica, initiation of scientific expeditions to Arctic, Development of deep drilling technology, etc. are a few success stories.

With the intention of creating awareness about this important sector and also to highlight activities of national importance being undertaken, a need was felt to celebrate its Foundation Day on 27th July every year. Accordingly, the Ministry of Earth Sciences is celebrating its Foundation Day since 2004.

Desalination is a flagship drinking water programme. The Ministry of Earth sciences has worked extensively in quest for techno-economically viable solutions for desalination. This is being achieved by Low Temperature Thermal Desalination (LTTD) and Other Conventional Desalination Processes. National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) under the Ministry, established laboratory scale model with a capacity of 5m3/day, 100m3/day capacity land based plant in the Kavaratti Island of Lakshdweep and 1000m3/day capacity Barge mounted experimental Plant off Chennai coast based on LTTD.

Indian National Center for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) translates the scientific knowledge into useful products and services through synergy and knowledge networking with centers of excellence in ocean sciences, atmospheric sciences, space applications, information and communication technology. The Tsunami Early Warning Center is operational now and has monitored 186 major earth quakes, issued advisories and has improved observing systems. Besides this, it has improved the PFZ advisory service and Ocean State Forecast. INCOIS continues to play the lead role in the Indian Ocean region and has made significant contributions to international initiatives such as Indian Ocean Global Observing System, International Agro Programme, International Oceanographic Data Exchange etc. New data products and services have been developed and provided to user community.

Scientific research expeditions on annual basis to Antarctica have been launched since 1981 to utilize its singular environment as a great natural laboratory for scientific investigations. India established two stations at Dakshin Gangotri and Maitri in 1981 and 1983 respectively. 28 expeditions have been completed. During the last expedition, hourly synoptic weather observations were recorded, behaviour of ozone and its precursors in marine and polar boundary layer was studied. Geological survey of India, Environmental sciences, Biological sciences, Wildlife Institute of India also carried out mapping of rugged area, collection of sub-surface snow, soil and water body, lichens and moss, monitoring of birds and mammals during the sea journey.

In Arctic expeditions special studies have been carried out on diversity of heterotrophic bacteria in arctic water and sediment with special reference to phosphate solubilisers, genetic diversity of marine vibrios, sulphur cycling, plankton organic carbon cycling at the marginal ice zone etc.

India is the first pioneer investor to have been allotted a site of 1,50,000 sq km in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by International Sea Bed Authority. Oceans are huge storehouses of resources like minerals, oil, food and energy. India has successfully reached the maximum depth of 5256m and has sampled manganese nodules through Remotely Operable Vehicle (ROV)-(ROSUB 6000). This is for the first time ROV has gone beyond the depth of 5000 m in Central Indian Ocean Basin. The Qualification trials at Poly Metallic Nodule (PMN) site in Central Indian Ocean Basin onboard Ocean Research Vessel Sagar Nidhi started in Mangalore on 1st April 2010 and conducted the ROV initial trials up to 1250m depth. When ROV reached the maximum depth of 5256m, certain electrical problems were noticed but they were rectified after bringing ROV back to the deck.

Short Term Climate Prediction and Cloud Aerosol Interaction and Precipitation Enhancement Experiment (CAIPEEX) are two schemes of Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) which will put it as world center of excellence in oceanic and atmospheric sciences. The Ministry has taken a positive step to implement a comprehensive developmental programme involving India Meteorological department (IMD), National Center for Medium range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF) and ) Indian Institute of tropical Meteorology (IITM).

*Deputy Director ( M & C), Press Information Bureau, New Delhi.

**July 27 is the Foundation Day of Ministry of Earth Sciences.

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13 COMMENTS

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