The Financial Express

Utilising potential of blue economy

| Updated: October 24, 2017 00:30:15

Utilising potential of blue economy

The government has, of late, given utmost importance to blue economy and set a time-frame of five years to start exploring newly owned maritime areas within the next few years. 
Bangladesh's win in a legal fight with Myanmar and India helped establish its ownership on a large size of maritime areas in the Bay of Bengal which is a vast store of huge mineral and fisheries resources.
As the country has least experience in exploration of maritime resources, including fisheries, the government has procured a maritime survey ship and is taking other necessary steps for extracting the resources.
The concept of the blue economy was, in fact, conceived at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, viewing the idea as an alternative economic model for sustainable development that puts the oceans at the centre of this approach.
Analysts, however, say the concept of blue economy is complex and it will take time to improve human resources and technological capacity to discover marine resources. It conceptualises oceans and seas as 'Development Spaces' where spatial planning integrates conservation, sustainable use of living resources, oil and mineral wealth extraction, bio-prospecting, sustainable energy production and marine transport. 
The government has recently set up Bangladesh Institute of Marine Technology (BIMT) and initiated study of oceanography at two public universities to carry out researches in the Bay of Bengal. There were only two marine academies in the country in 2009 while the number of such academies stood at 22 in 2017. 
The government has allocated Tk 2.0 billion for conducting research on maritime resources like fisheries and hydrocarbon. It has also commissioned a survey vessel to conduct a study on fisheries in the Bay of Bengal. It is otherwise willing to explore resources in the seabed on sustainable means for a better future of the country.
Bangladesh is, however, set to complete a strategic plan for exploring marine resources in the Bay of Bengal within the next two years. To ascertain the resources, it started surveying the Bay of Bengal to help boost the blue economy considering its potential. 
The first ocean research and survey ship of the country is reported to have been conducting the survey since last year to find out marine resources in the Bay of Bengal. Under the move, the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock launched a project titled Bangladesh Marine Fisheries Capacity Building at a total cost of Tk 1.65 billion. 
A total of 12 experts are now working on the project. The government is keen to complete the initial survey in the Bay of Bengal to ascertain the valuable marine resources there by 2019. The ship RV Min Sandhani is now engaged in assessing fish varieties, their stocks and other marine resources in the Bay, which will continue for the next 20-25 years uninterruptedly. 
Meantime, the World Bank (WB) has come forward to assist Bangladesh in tapping its maritime economic potential. It held out nearly US$200 million worth of funds for exploring the marine resources which would be helpful for further growth of the country's economy. 
The WB is also providing funds worth Tk 99 million for study on the offshore turfs under the technical assistance (TA) project for spotting the potential of the blue economy in the Bay of Bengal. Besides, the government is contributing Tk 1.5 million to the TA project.
The WB consultants are expected to prepare a development project proposal (DPP) for investment project based on the survey results where the clear path of exploring potential resources in the Bay and their contribution to the macro-economy would be detailed out. The WB will also help Bangladesh under its 'Sustainable coastal and marine fisheries project' in exploring the untapped resources in blue economy.
This is a good news for Bangladesh that the help is coming as the first-time support from a multilateral donor for exploring its untapped blue economy. The WB has lots of expertise worldwide as it works on the blue economy across the globe. Analysts believe the experts and consultants will give a clear picture of Bangladesh's potentials in the Bay. 
Formulation and effective implementation of blue economy is a demand of the time for economic well-being of the region, which can be achieved by efficient use of sea resources. The government aspires to formulate required policies pertaining to all important issues using Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) as a dialogue platform.
The IONS is a voluntary initiative that seeks to increase maritime co-operation among navies of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean Region by providing an open and inclusive forum for discussion of regionally relevant maritime issues.
While the geographical borders divide the countries, analysts believe friendship across the ocean can unite the nations. The IONS is not only a ray of hope for the Indian Ocean Region but also a forum of immense importance for the Asia-Pacific and the adjoining oceans.
The Indian Ocean, in fact, carries huge prospect and potentials both from geo-strategic and geo-economic point of view to facilitate maritime trade and commerce, economic prosperity and exploitation and exploration of the ocean resources. 
Proper management of this vast region and its effective utilisation is not possible by a single nation. The people of the region have to work together as a single entity so that every potential could be utilised for the greater benefit of mankind.
The country's private entrepreneurs need to come forward with greater investment for oil and gas exploration in deep sea areas. The country's total maritime boundary is about 81 per cent of total land area which is really big. There is a need for skilled workforce to tap the potentials of blue economy. The government has instructed universities in Bangladesh to teach oceanography in order to create skilled manpower and do research works.
Besides, there is an urgent need for strengthening coastal security and improving seaport facilities to attract regional goods transport through the country to utilise vast possibilities of the blue economy. There is also the need for collective initiative to overcome the adverse impact of climate change and dealing with the natural disasters.      
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