Short Report

Short report on Sediment Classification Framework for the Indian Ocean Region

  • In this study, we introduce a sediment classification framework built upon acoustics and the Underwater Acoustic Backscatter Sensor (UABS), enhancing our ability to analyze sediment characteristics and distribution patterns.

  • Current oceanographic research relies on Sediment Classification (SC) systems to get valuable insights into seafloor topography and the distribution of landmasses.

  • Advancements in acoustic technology have revolutionised our understanding of the ocean basins.

  • We will focus on three crucial applications – Sediment-bearing Pressure, Benthic Ecosystem Assessment and Abiotic Element Detection.

  • Understanding sediment-bearing pressure is essential for ensuring the safety and stability of structures built on or in contact with sediment and preventing costly and potentially dangerous failures.

  • The benthic ecosystems consist of organisms, such as sponges and corals, that live at the bottom of a body of water, such as an ocean, lake, or river.

  • The discovery of abiotic elements in the Indian Ocean is vital to understanding the makeup, movement, and geological processes of sediments in the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean.

  • The IOR contains petroleum, natural gas, and essential minerals such as iron, manganese, nickel, and gold. Also is a significant centre of numerous human activities, including shipping, fishing, offshore drilling, and transcontinental trade.

  • Creating a comprehensive Sediment Classification (SC) system for the Indian Ocean necessitates a multidisciplinary strategy that leverages the extensive array of sediment classification applications. These applications include assessing sediment-bearing pressure and monitoring benthic ecosystems.

  • Developing our capacity to manufacture acoustic gadgets in India is unquestionably essential, but it may also need strong engineering and material science skills.

  • The government should fund infrastructure for data gathering, including sensors, buoys, and data collecting systems.

  • Access to cutting-edge acoustic tools like sonars, robots, AUVs, and detailed training on maintenance and usage is required.

  • We have tried to describe the IOR’s approach for classifying sediment. Its four main aspects are the source-path-receiver model, policy-technology-acoustic capability, to see, to understand, to share understanding, and the applications of sediment classification.

Executive Summary
  • The recent geopolitical shift to the Indo-Pacific region has far-reaching implications for global politics and economies. Navigating this complex landscape requires countries in the region to balance economic opportunities and security concerns amidst intricate geopolitical dynamics. Oceans, covering over 70% of the Earth’s surface, play a pivotal role in the global ecosystem, particularly in the context of climate change. According to the World Economic Forum, the oceans contribute approximately $70 trillion to the global GDP, with their ecosystem services valued at $38 trillion annually. Furthermore, oceans facilitate 90% of global trade by volume and 40% by value, providing crucial support to billions of people residing near coastal areas who rely on the ocean for sustenance and livelihoods. Beyond their economic significance, oceans harbor rich biodiversity, including over 50% of species, some of which are classified as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered. Additionally, oceans serve as the largest carbon sink, absorbing a quarter of the world’s annual carbon dioxide emissions and mitigating climate change.
  • The Indian Ocean holds strategic importance for four primary reasons. Serving as a major sea route connecting West Asia, Africa, and Southeast/East Asia, it handles half of the world’s sea-borne trade. With 16.8% of global oil reserves and 27.9% of natural reserves, the Indian Ocean spans three continents and is home to 35% of the world’s population, making it central to the geostrategic aspirations of both regional and extra-regional powers.
  • Recognizing the underwater domain’s importance is critical for ensuring maritime system stability, technological advancements, and economic cooperation. The proposed Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) framework by the Maritime Research Centre (MRC) aims to address policy and technology needs while enhancing acoustic capacity and capability. As global attention shifts to the maritime domain, particularly the Indian Ocean region, the Bay of Bengal emerges as a strategically significant area. UDA in the Bay of Bengal is essential for protecting marine resources from potential threats and risks. With the global future dependent on healthy oceans, there is a growing recognition of the need to explore the underwater ecosystem independently of surface marine activity.

Despite being a critical component of the Earth’s environment, the underwater ecosystem remains one of the least understood and underexplored areas. There is an increasing need for a better understanding of this ecosystem due to its significant ecological, economic, and scientific importance.

  • Biodiversity: The underwater ecosystem is incredibly diverse, housing a wide range of species from microscopic plankton to massive whales. Researchers estimate that there may be millions of undiscovered species in the world’s oceans. Understanding this biodiversity is essential for conserving and managing marine resources effectively.
  • Climate Regulation: Oceans play a crucial role in regulating the Earth’s climate. They absorb and store vast amounts of carbon dioxide, helping to mitigate climate change. Additionally, the temperature and circulation patterns of the oceans influence weather patterns and can impact global climate systems.
  • Food Security: Over 3 billion people rely on seafood as their primary source of protein. A better understanding of the underwater ecosystem is essential for sustainable fisheries management to ensure food security for current and future generations.
  • Pharmaceutical Potential: Marine organisms have provided numerous compounds that have led to the development of pharmaceuticals. Studying the underwater ecosystem could reveal new sources of potentially life-saving drugs.
  • Economic Value: The ocean economy is worth trillions of dollars annually, including industries such as shipping, tourism, and offshore energy production. A comprehensive understanding of the underwater ecosystem is crucial for sustaining these economic activities.
  • Conservation: Human activities, including overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction, pose significant threats to marine ecosystems. Improved knowledge can inform conservation efforts and help protect vulnerable species and habitats.
  • Scientific Discovery: The underwater ecosystem holds countless mysteries and has the potential to advance our understanding of life on Earth. Discoveries in this realm can lead to groundbreaking scientific advancements.

This notwithstanding, the underwater ecosystem is a critical but poorly understood part of our planet. As we face increasing environmental challenges and seek sustainable solutions, a comprehensive understanding of the underwater ecosystem is essential. Therefore, investments in research, technology, and conservation efforts are necessary to unlock the secrets of the deep sea and ensure the long-term health of our oceans and efforts to gain a better understanding of the underwater ecosystem include:

  • Marine Research: Scientists use advanced technologies such as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to explore the depths of the ocean and study its inhabitants.
  • Oceanographic Surveys: Research vessels equipped with sophisticated instruments collect data on temperature, salinity, currents, and marine life to create detailed oceanographic maps.
  • Conservation Initiatives: Marine protected areas (MPAs) and international agreements like the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) aim to protect and preserve marine ecosystems.

India’s pursuit of enhanced Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) has led to the development of both multilateral and bilateral relations with various nations. Multilaterally, India actively engages in regional forums and organizations such as the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) to collaborate on UDA initiatives. These partnerships facilitate information sharing, joint exercises, and technology transfer, strengthening India’s maritime security.

Bilaterally, India has bolstered UDA capabilities through strategic partnerships. For instance, its collaboration with the United States under the Maritime Security Dialogue has enabled intelligence sharing, joint patrols, and capacity building, enhancing UDA in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

Similarly, India’s relations with Japan have resulted in the acquisition of advanced technology, including underwater surveillance equipment. Meanwhile, cooperation with France includes joint maritime exercises and the sharing of naval infrastructure, further augmenting UDA capabilities.

Additionally, India’s engagement with Southeast Asian nations, such as Vietnam and Indonesia, has strengthened UDA efforts in the South China Sea, a region of growing geopolitical importance. This bilateral relations underscore India’s commitment to safeguarding its maritime interests and maintaining stability in the IOR, while also promoting regional security through UDA collaboration. Overall, these multilateral and bilateral efforts reflect India’s proactive stance in enhancing its UDA capabilities and fostering maritime security in the region.

Romit Rajendra Kaware

About Author

Romit Rajendra Kaware is a recent graduate from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, holding a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. Currently, he is serving as a Research Fellow at MRC. His primary focus is on scientific research in structures and materials, as it enhances his comprehension of the methodologies employed in constructing resilient infrastructure. Romit is deeply enthusiastic about applying his expertise in civil engineering to the maritime sector to foster sustainable development for our ecological resources.

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