Harvesting benefits of blue economy

Bangladesh established sovereign rights over more than 118,000 sq km of maritime territory, 200 nautical miles (NM) of exclusive economic zone, and 354 NM continental shelves through the verdicts of the international court. The verdicts settled maritime boundary disputes with Myanmar and India in 2012 and 2014 respectively. Plenty of resources in the vast sea area have opened up a new window to bag benefits of the blue economy.

In the blue economy, marine-based economic activities and management of sea and its resources for sustainable economic development, integrated planning for conservation and sustainable use of oceanic resources is the main theme. The country’s blue economy can be developed through the development of emerging sectors including shipping and port activities and seaborne trade, fisheries, renewable energy and submarine mining.

Eighty per cent of global trade by volume is carried out by sea. Global seaborne trade has been increasing fast. Bangladesh is geographically situated in an economically important area. By developing three sea ports at Chittagong, Mongla and Payra and ensuring regional connectivity, Bangladesh can become a large trading hub and earn huge economic dividends.

There are about 435 species of fish available in the Bay of Bengal and total collection of fish is approximately 6 million tonnes per year of which Bangladesh’s share is only 0.29 million tonnes. Clearly, the country has a great potential to increase marine fish catch through developing skilled manpower and technology enhancement. There are underwater plant resources as well most of that remain almost unexplored.

There are potentials to get adequate gas and oil reserves in deep sea bed. Deep sea mining in the newly acquired areas can mitigate energy deficiency. There are mineral resources including copper, magnesium and precious metals including cobalt to be explored. Oceans offer great potential for the generation of renewable energy from coastal wind, sea wave and tidal surge.

Of late, the Prime Minister urged businessmen to invest in the blue economy. The country is lagging behind in capacity to explore the benefits of blue economy. We have to bridge the capacity gap through ensuring collaboration among stakeholders inside and outside the country on the basis of effective principles of engagement, mutual benefits and equitable sharing of the same.