The blue economy is sea-based. It involves oceans, coral islands, dolphins, whales, and pearl-filled oysters. The Blue Economy was conceived in 1994 by Professor Gunter Pauli of Belgium as a sustainable and environmentally friendly model for outlining the future economy. The sea is the main medium of transporting goods. Apart from meeting the food demand through sea fish and fisheries, various types of natural mineral resources such as sand, salt, cobalt, gravel, copper, etc. can be used as reservoirs. The sea is also used to extract oil and gas. The above elements to ensure the well-being of the people and ensure social equity, environmental risk reduction and efficient use of marine resources are called the blue economy.
Around the sea, three to five trillion US dollars’ worth of activities are taking place worldwide every year. Marine fish, plants, and animals are providing meat to 430 crore people of the world. Thirty percent of the gas and fuel oil is being supplied from various minerals under the sea. By 2050, the world will have a population of about 900 crores, of which the sea may be one of the main suppliers of food. Moreover, by increasing the knowledge of marine biodiversity, the marine-based pharmaceutical industry can also be developed.
In recent years, the blue economy has been a major focus of discussions at various international conferences, particularly the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the European Union (EU).
Bangladesh also has immense potential as a blue economy. According to analysts, only the export of marine fish and moss could generate billions of dollars a year. The disputed area of territorial waters with neighboring India and Myanmar is now considered a new area of development for the country. Our Seventh Five Year Plan also outlines 12 activities aimed at a prosperous and sustainable blue economy. Whereas includes fish farming, renewable energy, human resources, transshipment, tourism, and climate change. Further, in 2017 a cell was set up under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to coordinate departmental ministries with initiatives related to the blue economy. The 26 potential areas of the Blue Economy are identified. These include fish farming, shipping, navigation, energy, tourism, coastal security, and related surveillance issues.
The unemployment problem of Bangladesh can be solved to a large extent through a sea-based economy. Disputes over maritime boundaries with Myanmar and India were settled in 2012 and 2014 by the International Court of Justice, and Bangladesh’s supremacy and sovereignty were established in a territorial sea area of 1,18,813 square KM. In consequence, after the conquest of another sea almost the size of Bangladesh, the immense potential of the blue revolution has opened up. The contribution of marine resources to our economy is only 9.8 billion US dollars or six percent, but the reserves of valuable resources are under the sea. There are 26 blocks in the maritime boundary acquired from Myanmar and India. Analysts believe that it is possible to get about 40 trillion cubic feet of gas by leasing these blocks.
Through maritime rights, Bangladesh will be able to collect various marine animal resources including shrimp, crab, snail-oyster, shellfish, octopus, and shark. Further, different types of weeds can be found. Which can be processed to make medicines for various diseases. Non-animal resources at sea include important mineral resources such as oil, gas, limestone, and mineral sand. Valuable mineral sands include zircon, retail, selenium, ilmenite, magnetite, gannet, kyanite, monazite, closing, etc. If marine fish can be extracted properly, it can be exported to different countries by meeting the demand of their own country. Foods from marine fish, various types of medicines, sauces, chitosan, etc. can be made with fish oil. As a result, creating new types of employment besides a large amount of foreign exchange can be earned for the country by exporting abroad.
The government has already identified several potential activities for the development of the maritime economy. Such as- seaports, ferry services, inland water transportation, shipbuilding and recycling industries, fisheries, marine aquatic products, marine biotechnology, ocean renewable energy, blue energy, mineral resources, oil and gas, sea salt production, marine genetics asset, Coastal tourism, recreational aquatic sports, yachting and marines, coastal protection, artificial islands, delta planning, and maritime security.
With the formation of a developed Bangladesh in 2041, the blue economy can be a blessing for Bangladesh. Some points are very important for this. The points are:
1) Prioritize the maritime economy in Bangladesh’s Delta Plan-2100 or master plan and expeditious completion of a multidimensional survey of marine resources.
2) It is possible to earn about two and a half trillion US dollars every year by 2030 if oil and gas extraction, fishery resource extraction, port facilities expansion, and tourism growth activities are carried out in the region in which Bangladesh has got ownership as a result of sea conquest.
3) Although the economic zone of Bangladesh is 200 nautical miles, at present local trawlers procure fish only 35-40 nautical miles from the coast. In consequence, the Blue Economy has the potential to strengthen the country’s economy by working in a wider range.
4) About 1.5 billion people live on the shores of the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh is at the center of it. The opportunity to enrich the economy of Bangladesh is being blessed as it has huge economic potential.
5) According to a survey, 70 percent of the trade and commerce of Bangladesh comes from sea fishing, seafood, and commercial sea transportation. Directly and indirectly, about 30 million people are involved in these activities. About 5 million people are engaged in marine fish extraction. If this sector is modernized quickly, this number is likely to increase further.
6) According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Bangladesh is the first of the four countries in the world to achieve huge success in fish farming by 2022. With the acquisition of vast new marshes, Bangladesh has the potential to expand its blue economy.
7) In the Bay of Bengal, an important raw material of the cement industry ‘Clay’ has been found at a depth of 30 to 80 meters. If clay can be extracted from the shallow areas of the Bay of Bengal, there is a possibility of exporting the cement industry of Bangladesh by meeting the local demand. In addition, precious uranium and thorium have been found in the seabed, the demand for which is unmatched in the world.
8) The Bay of Bengal may be one of the sources of renewable energy in Bangladesh. According to expert opinion, it is possible to provide a large amount of renewable energy through sea air, wave waves, tides, bio-thermal changes, and salinity levels.
9) To make communication with Cox’s Bazar easier and faster, several mega projects including the construction of the Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar railway and the construction of the Bangabandhu tunnel are in progress in the south of the country. As a consequence, it will be easier to reach any part of the country quickly and evenly distribute the resources from the Bay of Bengal.
10) If Bangladesh can achieve four percent growth from the blue economy, then it will be easier to achieve ‘Vision 2041’. As a result, within that time the country will reach a developed country.
At present, the main challenges facing Bangladesh in the development of the blue economy are lack of proper work plan and adequate policies, lack of skilled manpower and technical knowledge, lack of marine resource-based research, lack of accurate information on resource quantity and value, lack of international and regional communication related to sea-based economy and research activities, and adequate research ship crisis to perform research.
It is an accepted truth that Bangladesh has a lot of potentials to earn from the sea. But investment and incentives are needed for the exploration and extraction of marine resources. In the meantime, the government is focusing on building skilled human resources to harness the opportunities of the maritime economy. The Government of Bangladesh has recently established Maritime University and Bangladesh Oceanographic Research Institute for human resource development and marine research. The construction of thermal power plants in deep seaports and coastal areas needs to be completed soon. To attract investors to this sector, it is necessary to come up with reliable data and accurate statistics and pay special attention to how this sector can be developed. Short-term, medium-term, and long-term plans for technology dependence and skilled manpower recruitment, need to be formulated and appropriate steps are taken for their scientific and environmentally friendly collection and sustainable implementation. It is hoped that the Blue Economy will open the door to immense potential and prosperity for Bangladesh.
The Author of this article is a student of the Department of Finance, University of Chittagong.