Our oceans and marine habitats form the backbone of humanity at large and particularly for communities that depend on them. Global sustainability initiatives have integrated marine sustainability and players connected with marine ecosystem are focused on various aspects of underwater protection and preservation. For such evolved enterprises, MRC is the partner ensuring that their CSR contributions deliver impact at scale.
As a Section 8 company Maritime Research Centre (MRC) has an enviable track record since 2019 with approvals of Section 80G, 12A and CSR1 from competent authorities. The MRC is progressing the Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) framework for safe, secure and sustainable growth for all in the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific and beyond. The UDA framework is relevant both to the marine and freshwater systems. MRC activities have gained significant recognition among key stakeholders connected with Maritime Security, Blue Economy, Marine Environment & Disaster Management and Research & Innovation to cohesively synergize action. The varied activities that could receive support and participation are as follows:
The earth’s surface is predominantly covered by water, with 75% of it being water bodies – 70% being marine and 5% being freshwater. However, our understanding of the underwater world remains limited compared to that of space, as acknowledged by the scientific community. Despite this, the growing energy and mineral demands of an expanding population have led to the exploitation of oceanic and aquatic resources for economic gain. This unregulated access to the commons poses a significant risk to sustainability and climate change management. To address this concern, Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) could serve as an effective governance tool for both marine and freshwater systems. A detailed paper is attached to enumerate the nuances of MSP and its impact on good governance.
Digital transformation will be instrumental in the management of modern technology intervention across sectors and applications. The digital transformation driven by the UDA framework has a potential to usher in greater operational efficiency and cost- effectiveness in the longer term. Tropical waters have their set of unique challenges, and imports from the west may not be enough to address them. Indigenous effort is inescapable and the use of massive Modelling & Simulation (M&S), supported by site-specific field experimental validation is quintessential. A detailed paper is attached to enumerate the nuances of digital transformation and the specific technology intervention that will be enabled.
he underwater domain allows only acoustic signals to propagate efficiently thus, acoustic survey is the de-facto means for effective UDA in the marine as well as freshwater systems. The tropical waters further degrade the acoustic propagation by 60% due to higher depth of sound axis. The unique sediment transport is a major setback for navigability in the waterways. However, the tropical waters are a storehouse of underwater resources and rich bio-diversity. Managing the challenges and opportunities will require significant indigenous efforts and nuanced approach. The acoustic capacity & capability building has to be a priority area. A detailed paper is attached to elaborate on the acoustic capacity & capability building nuances.
MRC firmly stands by the belief that our organization can blossom in an ecosystem of interdependence of society for which a holistic human centric development is quintessential. Henceforth, all our interventions driven by UDA framework have been envisioned towards environment conservation, capacity and capability building, paving knowledge and breaking skill barriers to bolster vulnerable communities for economic growth.
The multiple applications and sectors that could be served by the UDA framework are as follows:
Currently, India is facing an acute water crisis with 70% households receiving contaminated water. 600 crores face extreme water stress meaning- 2,00,000 people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water as per 2018 NITI Aayog report. Therefore, Freshwater management ensures isn’t just about making sure it’s available, but also ensuring there’s the right amount and quality at all times. Issues like flooding, drought, erosion, chemical and biological contamination require a nuanced approach. Constant monitoring of water sources and being able to predict any climate change effects or disasters will help us manage our freshwater systems effectively.
Centuries of Oceans and freshwater exploitation has severely compromised ocean’s health with bilateral effects on industries and human health. An array of activities in the marine and freshwater systems, like transportation, industrial activities, seismic activities among others are significantly contributing to an increase in the underwater noise. The underwater species, rely on acoustic signal for their biologically critical functions, thus increasing anthropogenic noise is causing severe acoustic habitat degradation, leading to certain fatalities. India is home to the very unique freshwater dolphins and the acoustic habitat degradation could be the most critical conservation challenges. Moreover, frequent stranding of big whales at coasts could be attributed to increasing underwater radiated noise from ships. Moreover, such high, noises could have serious impact on underwater diving by humans as well.
The coastal and riverine communities, engaged in harnessing underwater resources and water transport, are highly vulnerable to the vagaries of the water bodies. Unprecedented climatic changes, urbanization and industrialization have wrecked apart their traditional income generating activities leading to conflicts and uncertainty. Further, lack of support from financial institutions has been a major setback. Henceforth, Digital Ocean driven by UDA framework aims to bridge the knowledge gaps, assess and predict extreme weather conditions, strategize frameworks to envision a profitable way to recycle while simultaneously disrupting the traditional tension between profitability and environment.. Such possibilities will enable financial institutions to partner with these communities and enhance their livelihood opportunities and overall wellbeing.
Climate Change risk is a defining issue globally. The way we deal with it is going to shape the lives of current and succeeding generations. Hence, the future of our planet depends on how we address this challenge, which requires effective assessment tools and response mechanisms. Oceans and freshwater bodies have a deep impact on the climate change risk and its assessment. Therefore, the UDA framework will be a key tool for assessing and managing climate change risks, particularly those associated with water bodies. By utilizing this framework, we can better understand the impact of climate change and develop strategies for managing them.
The growing maritime consciousness and increasing activities across the water bodies are a positive sign. However, spreading awareness among young India, regarding these opportunities requires a focused approach. Skill and knowledge enhancement will require a comprehensive mechanism and allocation of resources along with the infrastructure, expertise, and policy focus. The west driven efforts are not relevant to the tropical waters thus, our indigenous effort should be inescapable. The maritime India is almost equal to the terrestrial India, thus harnessing the maritime opportunities is beneficial for us all. The demographic advantage can be truly realized, with effective UDA framework being implemented on the ground.
The underwater resources in international waters can only be accessed by those countries with the specialized capabilities to explore and exploit them. India has now entered this elite club; however significant efforts are still required to protect and manage the ecosystem of sustainable blue economic opportunities. The vernment of India has announced, Deep Ocean Mission with huge budget allocated for it. The mission aims to support blue economies – that is sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and ocean ecosystem health. Some of these undersea resources will be extremely critical for building India’s long-term strategic objectives. MRC through our UDA framework can significantly enable and foster the deep ocean mission and aid in capacity and capacity building of the stakeholders involved.
The Government of India, has announced significant focus on logistic and supply chain management across the country However, the congested road transport system has been a major bottleneck, leading to high costs. To improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Inland Water Transport and Port infrastructure in tropical waters, underwater domain awareness (UDA) support is required. One unique challenge faced in these waters is siltation, which demands site-specific efforts for effective sediment management Sediment management and Underwater Radiated Noise (URN) management are two critical aspects that merit significant attention at multiple levels to make it sustainable.
The SAGAR vision of the Honourable Prime Minister is a remarkable declaration by the Government of India at the apex level. The SAGAR vision, declared by the Honourable Prime Minister, is a significant initiative by the Government of India at the highest level, recognizing both security concerns and the vast economic opportunities at the regional level. To complement this vision, the Government of India has announced a large number of mega projects such as Sagarmala, Bharatmala, Inland Water Transport, Deep Ocean Mission, Gati Shakti and more. These along with other mission mode projects like Start-up India, Atmanirbhar Bharat, Digital India, Skill India need to be combined and implemented effectively with the SAGAR vision to drive the UDA framework at a regional level. The SAGAR vision of the Honourable Prime Minister can only be bolstered with effective implementation of our UDA framework, which would very well align with the Indo-Pacific strategic construct. India’s leadership in the Indo-Pacific region can be established with true demonstration of the acoustic capacity and capability building driven by the UDA framework. Moreover, India has the potential to export skilling and knowledge across the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region, thereby cementing its position as a regional power.
The three-step realization of the UDA framework can be planned as follows:
The stakeholders, policy makers, practitioners, academia, corporates, young India and others need to be sensitized about the nuances of the UDA framework, before they can be asked to participate. Seminars, workshops and executive programs will be critical components in the outreach program. This outreach will allow every component of the ecosystem to appreciate the nuances and identify their area of interest.
Once the sensitization is done, specific areas of interest will have to be identified and next course of action initiated. Young India, comprising of the students, faculty and young professionals, need to be offered UDA fellowships of varying duration to build the pool of human resource required to push this critical area of national interest. Corporates will have to plan their policy interventions, technology interventions and acoustic capacity & capability building in a nuanced manner. The government agencies and ministries have to formulate policy framework, and thus nuanced appreciation of the UDA framework will be required.
Once the outreach and engage steps are achieved, the formal policy & technology intervention project will have to be initiated to ensure a sustained realization of the UDA framework. Projects with long term funding and support from the policy makers and stakeholders will be critical. A user-academia-industry partnership will have to be formulated.
The CSR support from corporates could be channelized to realize the UDA framework at multiple levels as follows:
Corporates could support multiple UDA fellowships to generate the pool of skilled and knowledgeable human resource as follows:
is a five-month (one semester) fellowship for students pursuing Post Graduate (PG) level courses and in some cases Under Graduate (UG) level courses in premier institutes.
is a one-year fellowship for young professionals. It is a full-time association, where they will work on a specific area of interest based on their domain of expertise. Students aspiring to go abroad for higher studies could join this program to enhance their profile.
is a deliverable based fellowship that could last upto 18 months. The multidisciplinary fellow will deliver a reasonable research output and it could be part of a PhD research program.
Corporates with a mission of education, skilling, knowledge enhancement, rural empowerment, women empowerment, community empowerment, capacity & capability building and employability enhancement, could support few fellows as per their budget.
Corporations could support a structured outreach program to generate awareness among stakeholders, policy makers, communities, students, practitioners and more. A series of seminars, workshops, training programs and field interactions could be planned. The specific area of interest will be addressed based on the corporate vision. The areas of interest could be the one listed above in applications and sectors. A detailed proposal will be prepared, based on the common focus area of the corporates and MRC:
Corporations could support specific areas of interest and build the entire stakeholder involvement in a structured manner. A Center of Excellence (CoE) can be established, comprising five sub-centers for research, skilling, academic, incubation, and policy. Additionally, individual centers can be set up for any of the above modules or thematic areas that could be further discussed. Alternatively, individual centers can be set up for any of the above modules or thematic areas.
Specific projects on policy and technology interventions as well as acoustic capacity & capability building could be supported. Various thematic areas are listed above in the applications and sectors for reference. Complete management of the entire initiative including publications, policy papers, strategic communications, research and development with field experimental validation and more will be planned and executed.