Almost three parts of the earth surface are water & one part is land. Ninety percent of today’s commercial activities are also done by seas & oceans.
According to World Bank,
“Blue Economy is sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, while preserving the health of marine and coastal ecosystem.” SDG-14 also focuses on sustainable use of maritime economy & marine resources.
A report by the Economic Intelligence Unit reveals that in recent years the governments of the world’s coastal countries and islands have been focusing on the sea as a new sector of the economy and have adopted a growth policy based on the Blue Economy. Indonesia’s economy is now largely dependent on the maritime economy and their reliance on the sea as a source of raw materials for food, minerals, energy and medicine is increasing. Countries like China, Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines have been dependent on the maritime economy for many years. China took a few policies to achieve the sustainable development of the maritime economy, which include developing maritime strategies as national strategies, enhancing land and sea-centric economic potential, enacting laws suitable for the marine environment, and developing new concepts for marine conservation.
Opportunities of Bangladesh:
It is largely true that Bangladesh has a lot of income potentials from its marine resources. Experts say, the export of marine fish and algae alone could generate billions of dollars a year. There remains the scope of employment generation too.
The United States earns 10 billion a year just from the beauty of the seabed. People from different countries of the world go there to travel and enjoy their sea-beauty. There are such opportunities in Bangladesh too. If the fishery resources, gas resources, mineral resources and scuba tourism can be utilized properly, then it is possible to provide at least half of the budget of Bangladesh in every financial year with the blue economy.
Within the Bay of Bengal, there is a 710 km long coastline with an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles. Marine fish accounts for 19.4% of the country’s total fish production. In addition, increased economic activity in the southern coastal areas is playing a significant role in the overall socio-economic development of the country.
There is a possibility of gas reserves in the interior of the country as well as in the sea. The Bangladesh Oceanographic Research Institute, a marine research center, was set up in Cox’s Bazar in 2017 to study the country’s vast maritime boundaries and how to use those resources to achieve economic success.
Blue economy is not lagging behind in employment either. Huge number of people are engaged in salt production and shipbuilding industry. The possibility of discovering natural gas and other mineral resources looms large for economic development.
At present 8 million tons of fish of about 475 species are caught in the Bay of Bengal annually. These marine fishes are used to make a variety of delicacies and various life-saving medicines. As a result, multiple research reports on fish and fish show that about 50 percent of the world’s magnesium used in heavy industry, potassium used in agricultural fertilizers, sodium chloride in daily food salts, and bromine used in pharmaceuticals come from the sea. There is an opportunity to extract and export such huge resources from Bay of Bengal. Besides, it is possible to find large amount of mineral resources like oil and gas in the sea areas of Bangladesh.
After the demarcation of the maritime boundary in 2012, Bangladesh has now immense potential to enrich the country’s economy by using those resources. But the reality is that even after eight years, no major steps have been taken to utilize the marine resources. The results of small initiatives are not promising. While the two neighboring countries are extracting oil and gas from their territorial waters and extracting fish, Bangladesh lacks adequate research and data on its own maritime resources.
Apart from setting up Bangabandhu Maritime University, courses introduced on oceanography in several universities are lack in structures & resources.
Bangladesh has already bought a ship from Malaysia. However, there is a gap in this achievement. There are allegations that the ship ‘RV Meen Sandhani’ bought from Malaysia could not go to the deep sea. Those ships can explore a limited range of marine resources. Moreover, the maritime law has not yet been finalized.
We need to focus on the deep sea in extracting resources. Bangladesh has not yet been able to take advantage of the 60-kilometer sea boundary for fishing. This is because mechanical fishing boats, trawlers and ships can catch fish up to 60 kilometers off the coast. The rest is beyond our reach. In this case, large ships are needed to extract fish resources in the deep sea.
Blue economy can be one of the possible solutions for bringing socio-economic change in the lives of the people of the country and achieving sustainable economic growth. But without a well-trained, skilled and educated human resource in the maritime industry, it is not possible for any country to achieve success in a sustainable and dynamic blue economy. As there are currently several government institutes on oceanography and marine biology, it will be easier for Bangladesh to seize the opportunity in future.
It’s urgent to attract foreign investment, especially from international oil companies or IOCs involved in oil and gas exploration. Without them, oil and gas exploration would not be possible.
As Bangladesh has a lot of potential to earn from the sea, incentives and investments are needed for the exploration and extraction of marine resources. There is not much incentive in the search for marine resources yet, again the country’s big entrepreneurs and investors are not keen on investment. Therefore, effective plans are required to attract foreign investment. Additionally, the country needs extensive research and appropriate policy support.
The writer is a contributor on Business & Economic issues.