THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Fisherman and scientists have criticised the draft ‘Ocean Policy Statement for Blue Economy - A Road Map’ on the provisions for exploitation of strategic minerals from sea. Though many have hailed it for extraction of rich manganese nodules from deep sea, a few have raised alarm on its impact on the fragile marine eco system and on the fishermen’s livelihood.
The note on it accessed by ‘Express’ stated about harnessing poly-metallic or manganese nodules estimated at around 380 million metric tonnes in sea. “The document looked harmless in its entirety. But a closer look on suggestion on mining of non-living resources reveals a plan behind opening the sea for some major mining that will affect the marine ecology and the fishermen,” said a source from the Fisheries Department.
He said safeguards should be taken while mining strategic minerals such as titanium found abundantly on the Kerala coast. “The policy is aimed at allowing foreign participation in mineral extraction to comply with multi-national treaties. Often priorities get skewed at the cost of native industry,” he said. The high seas and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) up to 200 nautical miles will be subjected to mining.
National Fishworkers Forum (NFF), protesting against the drafting of new National Marine Fisheries Policy without their participation, felt left out in the Ocean policy as well. “Though the government claimed that mining would be done in deep sea it would eventually affect the livelihood of fishermen. Fishermen should be included while drafting policies that have far reaching consequences on their lives,” said T Peter, secretary, NFF. The first policy statement was issued in 1982 for optimal utilisation of living resources, exploitation of non-living resources such as hydrocarbons and heavy placer deposits, processing of polymetallic nodules and so on from the deep sea. Though experiments were a success mining requires huge capital.Some scientists believe the concerns are unfounded. “There is a need to balance between development and ecology. These metals are of high value and could offset the problems created through mining,” said K Sunilkumar Mohamed, senior scientist with Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute.