Earth Sciences in India

Compilation of  Q & A format of the book Science and Technology for Civil Services Examinations, Tata McGraw Hill Publication

Chapter 33. Earth Sciences in India

1. Describe India’s coast line, economic zone and continental shelf.  How far does the maritime belt , economic, belt and Fisheries belt extend.   Page (470, and 480)

India’s coastline sprawls over a distance more than 7500 km long, and its territory includes 1256 islands. Its exclusive economic zone covers about an area of 20 lakh and the continental shelf stretches up to 350 nautical miles from the coast.

The continental shelf comprises of the sea bed and sub-soil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin, or to a distance of 200M from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured, where the outer edge of the continental margin does not extend up to that distance.

Territorial waters, or a territorial sea, as defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ]is a belt of coastal waters extending at most 12 nautical miles (22 km; 14 mi) from the baseline (usually the mean low-water mark) of a coastal state. The territorial sea is regarded as the sovereign territory of the state, although foreign ships (both military and civilian) are allowed innocent passage through it; this sovereignty also extends to the airspace over and seabed below.

If the distance between two States is less than 24 miles, a line drawn midway is the Fisheries belt. Within this restricted territorial belt, the littoral state (adjacent state) has exclusive rights to fish)

An exclusive economic zone extends from the outer limit of the territorial sea to a maximum of 200 nautical miles (370.4 km) from the territorial sea baseline, thus it includes the contiguous zone. A coastal nation has control of all economic resources within its exclusive economic zone, including fishing, mining, oil exploration, and any pollution of those resources. However, it cannot prohibit passage or loitering above, on, or under the surface of the sea that is in compliance with the laws and regulations adopted by the coastal State in accordance with the provisions of the UN Convention, within that portion of its exclusive economic zone beyond its territorial sea. Before 1982, coastal nations arbitrarily extended their territorial waters in an effort to control activities which are now regulated by the exclusive economic zone, such as offshore oil exploration or fishing rights .Indeed, the exclusive economic zone is still popularly, though erroneously, called a coastal nation’s territorial waters.

Contiguous zone

The contiguous zone is a band of water extending from the outer edge of the territorial sea to up to 24 nautical miles (44 km; 28 mi) from the baseline, within which a state can exert limited control for the purpose of preventing or punishing “infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations within its territory or territorial sea”.

2. Describe the organization of Ministry of Earth Sciences. What areas are covered by it? 470/ 100 words
it was created in 2006 after merger of India Meteorological Department (IMD), National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF), Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), and Earth Risk Evaluation Centre (EREC) with the then ministry of Ocean Development.

The ministry’s mandate is to look after atmospheric sciences, ocean science and technology and seismology in an integrated manner. It has to formulate and implement programmes relating to long term economic and technological development. It seeks to create a framework for understanding the complex interactions among key elements of the earth system.

3. What services does the Ministry of Earth Sciences provide? 471
it provides the nation with services in forecasting the monsoon, ocean state, earthquakes, tsunamis and other phenomena related to earth systems. It also deals with science and technology for exploration and exploitation of ocean resources and play a nodal role for Antarctic/Arctic research.

4. Write a note in hundred words on the Antarctica Treaty
It came into force in 1961 after ratification by 12 countries then active in Antarctic science. The treaty covers the area south of 60 degree south latitude. Its objectives are to demilitarise Antarctica, to establish it as a zone free of nuclear tests and disposal of radioactive materials, and to ensure that it is used for peaceful purposes only; to promote international scientific cooperation in Antarctica; and to set aside disputes regarding territorial sovereignty.

The treaty remains in force indefinitely. 44 countries have acceded to it. 27 nations, including India have consultative status. They have adopted over 200 recommendations and negotiated 5 separate international agreements, collectively, these are known as the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS).

5 . What is the significance of Antarctic Research? 100 words 471-472
Antarctica provides great scope for the conduct of scientific research for the benefit of mankind. It is an impressive, pristine laboratory which has enabled scientists and researchers to detect and monitor global environment phenomena such as depletion of the ozone layer, global warming, and sea level changes. It has supplied data crucial to weather forecasting in the southern hemisphere.

Glaciological research provides important data about the heat exchange budget. The earth’s geomagnetic field renders Antarctica especially suitable to the study of polar terrestrial interactions and cosmic rays that travel from outer space.

The continent’s environment provides unique opportunities to study the specialised adaptations of organisms. Human biology and medicine provides information on the physiological adaptation of man to extreme climates and isolation.

6 . Describe in hundred words the Indian Antarctic Research Programme.
It began in 1981, when the first Indian expedition was flagged off from Goa. Subsequently, 25 expeditions have been undertaken, including one to the
Wedell sea and another one to the Southern Ocean for krill ( a kind of fish) exploration.

MAITRI, the Indian station is situated in the Schirmacher Oasis. It has all modern facilities to carry out research in various disciplines such as biology, earth sciences, glaciology, atmospheric sciences, meteorology, cold region engineering, communication, human physiology and medicine. It has a capacity to accommodate 25 people in the winter.

India was admitted to the Antarctic treaty in 1983. It was admitted as a member of the Scientific Committee in Antarctic Research (SCAR) in 1984. India became a member of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in 1986 and built its second permanent station ‘Maitri’ in 1988-89.

7 . Describe the activities of the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR)  473

It was established as an autonomous institution in 1998. It is designated as the nodal organisation for the co-ordination and implementation of the Indian Antarctic Programme, including the maintenance of India’s permanent station in Antarctica, Maitri.

8 . What are the activities of the National Institute of Oceanography? 100 words 474
It was established in 1966. The principal objective is to develop sufficient knowledge related to physical, chemical, and biological aspects of the seas through the study of physical process in the ocean including the monsoon, exploration of living resources of the sea, sea-farming technology, bio-active substances from marine plants and animals, development of offshore oilfields, deep sea exploration of minerals, coastal zone and harbour development, studies for effective control of marine pollution, ocean modelling, processing of satellite imagery data and acoustic topography.

The institute is also involved in R&D projects for exploration and utilisation of natural resources of the seas.

9 . What is the Coastal Zone and Islands Programme? 50 words 475
The main aim of this programme is to provide basic data and information required for the effective management of the marine environment, its conservation and develop technological aids for harnessing its resources. To address these issues, we have—

COMAPS (Coastal Ocean Monitoring and Prediction System) envisaging systematic monitoring and modelling of the marine pollution along the coastline.

SELAM (Sea Level Measurement Programme) for precision sea level measurements using modern tide gauges.

Island Development Programme- development of aquaculture techniques to improve the quality of lives in the islands.

10 . Describe India ‘s Ocean Research. 100 words 476

It is being focussed on multi-disciplinary research on the physical, chemical, geological and biological aspects of the Indian Ocean. Ocean vessels can also be used for campaigns in validating satellite oceanographic data, assessment of marine resources and for various technology demonstration activities.

Dedicated cruises were also undertaken for summer monsoon and winter monsoon coverage of the Bay of Bengal as well as the Andaman sea. A centralised FORV (Fisheries Oceanographic Research Vessel) Data and Referral center has been set up at Kochi. Survey and exploration of poly-metallic nodules is also being carried out in about 100 blocks to refine resource estimation further and to identify first generation mine sites.

With a view to protecting and preserving the marine environment, the quality of coastal waters is being continuously assessed at many locations along the coast. The two indigenously built coastal vessels- Sagar Purvi and Sagar Paschimi are being utilised for continuous monitoring of pollution levels in the coastal areas.

Sagar Kanya and Sagar sampada have been carrying in surveys for discocering economic resources of India’s exclusive economic zone.

11 . What is the National Data Buoy Programme? 100 words  476
Collection of time series observations of oceanographic and surface meteorological parameters over Indian seas are necessary to improve oceanographic services and predictive capability of short-term and long-term weather/climatic changes. The National Data Buoy Programme was started in 1997 for such observations.

These data buoys carry sensors to measure wind speed, wind direction, air pressure, air temperature, conductivity, sea surface temperature, current speed, current direction, and wave parameters. The buoys are equipped with global positioning system, beacon lights and satellite transceivers. Some buoys can measure parameters like radioactivity, light attenuation in three wavelengths and dissolved oxygen. Power to the buoys is provided by solar panels and chargeable battery packs.

Applications of this programme include Environmental impact assessment, Meteorology, oceanography, fisheries, validation of satellite data, offshore installations, ports and coastal structures, and shipping.

12. Marine organisms have attracted attention as a potential source for drugs. Explain in 100 words 477
Dozens of promising products, including cancer therapy made from algae and a painkiller taken from snails, are in development at research laboratories. Other products, such as an anti-inflammatory drug extracted from the Caribbean sea whip, and a potential antiosteoporotic drug of hexacoral origin are under review.

Among other areas of research are the discovery, development and production of drugs from marine bacteria, fungi, microalgae, sponges and opisthobranch molluscs.

After successful completion of clinical trial, the systematic collection, extraction and biological evaluation of seaweeds, mangroves, anemones, sponges, starfish, seahorses would be carried out to identify other potential drugs. Product development is on-going in 7 areas- anti-diabetic, anti-hyperlipidaemic, anti-anxiety, anti-hyperglycaemic, anti-bacterial, anti-tumour and larvicidal.

13. What is COMAPS? 478
The Coastal Ocean Monitoring and Prediction System (COMAPS) has been in operation at 82 locations for collection and analysis of 25 parameters relating to physical, chemical and biological characteristics of water and sediments. Based on this data, the areas of concern have been identified and steps are being taken to prevent and control the causes of pollution.

14 . What are submersibles? 478
A submersible is a small vehicle designed to operate underwater. A feasibility study has been carried out regarding the possibility of developing indigenous submersibles capable of operating at a depth of 600m in the first phase and 2500m in the second phase.

15. Describe the integrated coastal and marine area management Programme (ICMAM)? 50 words. 478
The programme has two components, namely capacity building and development of infrastructure for R&D, Survey and Training for ICMAM. The second component covers 4 activities- development of GIS (Geographic Information System) based information system for 11 critical habitats in the coastal and marine areas, determination of waste assimilation capacity at selected estuaries along the coast, development of guidelines for environmental impact assessment and preparation of model integrated coastal and marine area management plans.

16.  What are polymetallic nodules? Describe the activities in this field? 100 words
Polymetallic modules on the ocean floor are considered to be a treasure house of much needed metals. The potato shaped, largely porous modules, are found in abundance carpeting the ocean floor. The nodules are of economic importance because they contain, besides manganese and iron, nickel, cobalt, copper, lead, molybdenum, cadmium, vanadium, titanium, of which cobalt, copper and manganese are considered to be of strategic importance.

In August 1987, India became the first country to be allotted 150,000 sq. km of area in the central Indian ocean for exploration and exploitation of polymetallic nodules under certain obligations and was given the status of a Pioneer Investor. The Department of Ocean Development which has been designated as the nodal agency responsible for implementing the deep seabed mining programme, has drawn up a long term plan to fulfil these obligations.

17 . What are the important types of marine data being studied now? 481
The important types of marine data being studied now are bathymetry data, seismic reflection data, seismic refraction data, gravity and magnetic data and geological knowledge.

18 . How are Tsunami warnings given ? (482)

After the devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami, the Department of Ocean Development was given the responsibility of putting in place an early warning system for tsunami and storm surges in the Indian Ocean region with an ultimate objective of saving lives and property. The total cost of this system has been estimated at 125 crores of rupees and is expected to become operational by 3 years,


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