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Coastal Wealth

Swadeshi movement has largely shaped our economy towards making it self-reliant i.e. Atmanirbhar Bharat. We genuinely need to know our oceans and coastal line for our economy growth.  — Vinod Johri


Swadeshi movement has largely shaped our economy towards making it self-reliant i.e. Atmanirbhar Bharat. For expanding horizon of swadeshi movement, I embarked upon idea of studying optimal utilization of coastal wealth. We genuinely need to know our oceans and coastal line for our economic growth. We have coastline of 7,516.6 km along mainland, Lakshadweep Islands and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. 

The sea-shore is the place where the land meets the sea. Coastal ecosystem includes estuaries and coastal waters and lands located at the lower end of drainage basins, where stream and river systems meet the sea and are mixed by tides. The coastal ecosystem includes saline, brackish (mixed saline and fresh) and fresh waters, as well as coastlines and the adjacent lands. It consists of rocky cliffs, sandy beaches or mudflats beside a river or estuary. The coastal domain occupies 18% of the surface of the globe and it supplies approximately 90% of world fish catch. We have variety of natural coastal ecosystems. The Western coastline has a wide continental shelf and is marked by backwaters and mud flats. The term “continental shelf” is part of the continental margin between the shoreline and the shelf break or, where there is no noticeable slope, between the shoreline and the point where the depth of the super accent water is approximately between 100 and 200 metres.

Oceans cover 70 percent of Earth’s surface, host a vast variety of geological processes responsible for the formation and concentration of mineral resources, and are the ultimate repository of many materials eroded or dissolved from the land surface. Ocean resources provide jobs, goods and services for billions of people around the world and have immense economic importance. The ocean is an important source for food, salt, fresh water, oil, tidal energy and minerals. Oil is the most valuable resource obtained from the ocean. The world’s oceans, with a total volume of more than 500 million cubic kilometers, hold more than 97 percent of all the water on Earth.

Bharat has 18th longest coastline. Therefore, we need to harness our oceans for minerals, energy, navigation, tourism and transportation for betterment of lives of 56 Crore people living in coastal regions. 

We need to understand that a country can carry out commercial activities of extracting minerals, crude oil, fishing etc. within Exclusive economic zone (EEZ) which extends upto 200 Nautical miles (1 Nautical mile = 1.852 km). Bharat has the 18th-largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ) with a total size of 2,305,143 km2. It includes the Lakshadweep island group in the Laccadive Sea off the southwestern coast of India and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. India’s EEZ is bordered to the west by Pakistan, to the south by the Maldives and Sri Lanka and to the east by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Based on new scientific data, India has requested United Nations to extend its EEZ from 200 Nautical miles to 350 miles. Extension of EEZ from 200 to 350 nautical mile will almost double India’s present EEZ.

Nine states have coastal line and their economies are largely impacted by oceans along coastline. 
1. Gujarat : Gujarat has the 1,600 km long longest coastline in India. This coastline is surrounded by the Arabian Sea and is dotted with 41 ports– 1 major, 11 intermediate and 29 minor. Some of the beaches of Gujarat are– Diu, Dwarka, Porbandar. 
2. Andhra Pradesh : The state of Andhra Pradesh has the second-longest coastline in India and lies in the region of Coastal Andhra. The coastline is 974 km long along with the Coromandel Coast between the Eastern Ghats and Bay of Bengal. 
3. Tamil Nadu : The coastline in the state of Tamil Nadu is the third largest coastline in India and is known as coromandel coast. It is bounded by Utkal Plains in the north, Bay of Bengal in the east, Kaveri delta in the south and the Eastern Ghats in the West. It also has major seaports– Tuticorin and Chennai, fishing harbours, Marina Beach (largest natural urban beach in India) and Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park. 
4. Maharashtra : The state of Maharashtra has a coastline of 720 km and is known as Konkan Coast. It is bounded by the mountain range of Western Ghats in the east, the Arabian Sea in the West, Daman Ganga River in the north and the Gangavalli River in the south. The Konkan coastline is dotted with many beaches and is an ideal getaway for the people of Pune and Mumbai. 
5. Kerala : Kerala has the fifth largest coastline of 580 km in India and is called Malabar Coast. It starts from the south-western coast of Maharashtra and along the coastal region of Goa, through the entire western coast of Karnataka and Kerala and reaches Kanyakumari. It has the Arabian Sea on the west and the Western Ghats on the east. 
6. Odisha : The state of Odisha has a coastline of 485 km long called coastal Odisha or the Utkal Plains. The region is bounded by the Lower Ganges Plain in the north, the Bay of Bengal in the east, the Tamil Nadu Plains in the south, and the Eastern Ghats in the west. This region has Chilka lake (largest lake in the country), the ancient kingdom of Kalinga, beaches (Chandipur, Gopalpur, etc.) & Bhitarkanika (second largest mangrove ecosystem). 
7. Karnataka : The coastal area of Karnataka is known as Kanara which is 320 km long. The region is bounded by Konkan in the north, the Western Ghats in the east, Kerala Plains in the South and the Arabian Sea in the west. It has several tourist destinations— Maravanthe, St. Mary’s Island Beach, etc. It has three districts– Uttara Kannada, Udupi and Dakshina. 
8. Goa : Goa is the smallest Indian state with a coastline of 160 km long. It is home to many beautiful beaches in the world. It is surrounded by the Indian states of Maharashtra in the north and Karnataka in the east and south, with the Arabian Sea forming its western coast. 
9. West Bengal : The coastal plain of West Bengal is located in Purba Medinipur and South 24 Parganas district and has a coastline of 157 km long. The Sundarbans delta of West Bengal is the largest mangrove forest in the world. 

Living on the coast
Living on the coast is highly attractive because of - 
–    scenic beauty
–    moderate weather
–    plentiful and cheap seafood
–   innumerable opportunities for employment in the fishing, shipping and leisure activities
–   entertainment by way of sea sports like swimming, surfing, boating, etc.
–   The most fertile agricultural lands are found beside the coast.
–   Industries prefer to be located close to the coast for easy discharge of their effluents.
–   Thermal and nuclear power plants are also located on the coast for easy access to plentiful water for cooling.
–   Ports and harbours on the coast are an important source of employment and overseas trade.
–   Tourism flourishes on the coast owing to all the water related sports and activities.

The world’s oceans, with a total volume of more than 500 million cubic kilometers, hold more than 97 percent of all the water on Earth. However, the 3.5-percent salt content of this water makes it unusable for most human needs.

Fishing industry
Fishing is an important livelihood of the people in India. Besides, seafood is a cheap and nutritional component of their diet. The total commercial marine catch for India has stabilized over the last ten years at between 1.4 and 1.6 million tonnes, with fish from the clupeoid group (e.g. sardines, Indian shad and whitebait) accounting for approximately 30% of all landings.

Oil and gas industry 
The natural gas industry in India began in the 1960s with the discovery of gas fields in Assam and Gujarat. As on 31 March 2018, India had estimated crude oil reserves of 594.49 million tonnes (MT) and natural gas reserves of 1339.57 billion cubic meters (BCM).

India imports 82% of its oil needs and aims to bring that down to 67% by 2022 by replacing it with local exploration, renewable energy and indigenous ethanol fuel. India was the second top net crude oil (including crude oil products) importer of 205.3 Mt in 2019.

As of 31 March 2019, India had estimated crude oil reserves of 618.95 million tonnes (MT), increasing by 4.1% from the previous year. The largest reserves are found in the Western Offshore (Mumbai High, Krishna-Godavari Basin) (40%), and Assam (27%). The estimated reserves of natural gas in India as of 31 March 2018 was 1,339.57 billion cubic meters (BCM), increasing by 3.87% from the previous year. The largest reserves of natural gas are located in the Eastern Offshore (38.13%) and the Western Offshore (23.33%).

Mineral wealth
Small potato-like rounded accretions composed of minerals such as manganese, nickel, cobalt, copper and iron hydroxide are scattered on the our Ocean floor at depths of about 6,000 m. Mining of polymetallic nodules present in the seabed can help improve availability of nickel, copper, cobalt and manganese. Through an agreement with the International Seabed Authority, Bharat, being a member of ISA, has a right to explore and mine polymetallic nodules over 750,000 square km.

The estimated polymetallic nodule resource potential is 380 million tonnes, containing 4.7 million tonnes of nickel, 4.29 million tonnes of copper and 0.55 million tonnes of cobalt and 92.59 million tonnes of manganese. Bharat has large reserves of beach sand minerals, such as ilmenite, rutile, zircon, monazite, sillimanite and garnet. These deposits are mostly located in the coastal stretches of peninsular India. Ilmenite is the largest constituent of the Indian beach sand deposits, followed by sillimanite and garnet. India is one of the leading producers of garnet in the world.

Our Government has been very sensitive in utilization of oceanic resources without intrusive technology for exploiting deep sea minerals risking oceanic ecosystems, environmental damage, fragile deep-sea habitats from harmful mining activities. We need to harness tidal energy, navigational opportunities, tourism, deep sea fishing, minerals, crude oil & natural gas for Atmanirbhar Bharat.

The author is retired as Additional Commissioner from Income Tax Department, Delhi.

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