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Inaugural Address by Minister of State for External Affairs, Shri V. Muraleedharan at PBD Conference on “Future of Natural Resources (Hydrocarbons, Rare Earth Metals and Blue Economy)”

Posted on: November 01, 2021 | Back | Print

October 29, 2021

Distinguished Guests,
Esteemed Panelists,
Members of Indian Diaspora,
Ladies & Gentlemen.

It is my pleasure to address you all today on the occasion of the first virtual Conference on "Future of Natural Resources (Hydrocarbons, Rare Earth Metals and Blue Economy)” organised jointly by Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Earth Sciences.

2. Over 70 percent of the globe is covered by Oceans. And about 95 percent of Deep Ocean still remains unexplored. Oceans are storehouse of food, energy, minerals, medicines, modulator of weather and climate and underpin life on Earth. In fact, considering the importance of the oceans on sustainability, the United Nations has declared the decade, 2021-2030 as the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

3. Depleting land resources coupled with the ever-increasing demand for metals and minerals has led to the resurgence of global interest in exploring marine mineral resources. The sustainable development goals, increasing population, transition to green technologies, etc., are bound to increase the demands for metals. Metals such as nickel, cobalt, and rare-earth metals play a crucial role in promoting the renewable energy technologies needed to curtail global warming and the environmental and social costs often linked to existing terrestrial mining practices. Gas hydrate deposits may contain roughly twice the carbon contained in all reserves of coal, oil, and conventional natural gas combined, making them a potentially valuable energy resource. Hence, the development of marine mineral resources becomes imperative to meet the demand for future industrial and economic progress in a sustainable manner.

4. India holds a unique maritime position. It is surrounded by the oceans on its three sides. Around 30 per cent of the India’s population is living in coastal areas. Its 7,517 km long coastline is home to nine coastal states and 1,382 islands. For India, it’s oceans are a major economic factor supporting fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, livelihoods and blue trade. Minerals such as gas hydrates, polymetallic nodules, polymetallic sulphides are abundant in Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Indian Ocean.


5. India is one of the frontline nations in marine scientific research and is also actively engaged in exploring the resourceful ocean bed for meeting the country's future energy and metal demands. The Government of India's Vision of New India by 2030 underlines the Blue Economy as one of the ten core dimensions of growth. The Blue economy which consists of economic activities dependent on marine resources comprises an estimated 4.1% of India’s GDP. Prime Minister Modi ji envisions that India’s energy independence is absolutely essential for its progress and for a self-reliant or Atma Nirbhar India. He has emphasised the importance of Blue Economy for India’s sustainable economic development and has resolved to make India energy independent before the completion of 100 years of independence. India’s accelerated progress in developing its Blue Economy and harnessing its ocean resources is an unalienable key to India’s energy self reliance. However, India is determined to reach this milestone in a sustainable and responsible manner. To achieve it’s climate goals, India has set a target of 450 GW of renewable energy by the end of this decade - i.e. 450 GW by 2030. India has shown the way in collective initiative for tapping the solar energy. We believe in One Sun, One World and One Grid.

6. With respect to harnessing marine resources, the Government of India has taken several initiatives to explore ocean resources for sustainable use. India has been conducting detailed studies and explorations on deep sea minerals, such as for Poly-Metallic Nodules (PMN) in the Central Indian Ocean Basin since 2002 and for Poly-Metallic Sulphides (PMS) in parts of Central and South-West Indian ridges since 2016. We are also conducting experiments on harnessing energy from ocean and have also taken several initiatives over the years for development of marine fisheries in sustainable manner. We are also carrying out offshore marine survey and exploration in the Exclusive Economic Zone of India to identify potential zone for mineral resources. Further, we are undertaking scientific studies and development of technology for Gas hydrates for the exploration of ocean resources in Bay of Bengal with particular reference to two identified blocks in Krishna Godavari Basin and Mahanadi Basin.

7. Progress made by our country in marine mineral exploration is commendable and at par with other Nations involved in advanced marine exploration and research. However, the challenges faced by us include the development of suitable technologies for effective mining of some of the deep sea mineral resources and exploitation of gas hydrates resources. I hope that this Conference will address some of these challenges.

8. Post-pandemic geopolitical and economic trends offer an unprecedented opportunity for India to emerge as a rare earths supplier for the world. Rare Earth Elements (REEs) are crucial to many strategic applications including missile navigation and sensor systems. They are present in almost everything we use - from processors to advanced alloys to electric vehicles to consumer electronics and industrial machinery. India, with nearly 6.9 million tonnes, has one of the largest REE reserves, but they remain largely untapped. Deep-sea mining may prove to be sustainable source of rare earths for India in future, but require further technological innovation. This can be achieved by collaboration and cooperation of scientific community of both India and abroad.


9. Indian Diaspora is currently one of the largest in the world with over 31 million PIOs and NRIs spread across the globe. The Diaspora has achieved great success in different fields. People of Indian ethnicity can be witnessed at the forefront of politics, business, culture and science. Today we have eminent scientists and innovators, researchers and scholars among our diaspora who are making India proud of their achievements. The panelists of this Conference are a few of them. I am sure that you all can be a catalyst in finding innovative and sustainable solutions to these challenges which are before us today. Our purpose of holding the Conference on "Future of Natural Resources”, under the umbrella of PBD Conferences, was not only to connect with you but to get your expert views on such an important issue.

10. I may also take this opportunity to convey that we have been engaging with the Diaspora at multiple forums to introduce a variety of initiatives and measures that aim to strengthen and support the Diaspora’s connect with India. Some such initiatives are celebration of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, conferring of Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards, hosting various sectoral and regional PBD Conferences, organising Know India Programme for youth, and Pravasi Teerth Darshan Yojana for middle-aged and elderly. Our Scholarship Programme for Diaspora Children gives opportunity to the diaspora children to study in Indian universities and institutions. The Ministry also encourages our Missions and gives grants for organising cultural events with the Indian diaspora. Now our Missions are enthusiastically engaged with the Diaspora in organising activities for celebrating Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.


11. In conclusion, I would like to wish all the panelists and participants a very successful and productive deliberations in this Conference. I am confident that these deliberations will be fruitful in bringing out some innovative recommendations for future action.

Thank you.