Ahammad Parvej Khan
Works of $ 240 million project is poised to start in full-swing from the month of January 2019 aiming to tap the potential of Blue economy.
“Deep sea fishing is the main target, we will be able to provide a mid-term survey report immediately and by June-July next year, we will be able to submit a complete report which will clear a picture of what is there within our maritime boundary and how to tap the potentials of blue economy”, said Joint Secretary, Blue Economy, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Md. Toufiqul Arif while talking to daily Bangladesh Post on Tuesday.
He said the government provided license to some companies for deep sea fishing and fishing will start soon. Five companies have submitted proforma invoices to the ministry last week.
Ministry sources said the government undertakes time-bound planning for 5 years in a bid to pay serious attention to tap the unlimited potentials of blue economy, accordingly has allocated a fund of Tk. 200 crore in the current fiscal’s proposed budget for blue economy.
The ‘Blue Economy Cell’, formed by the government under the Energy and Mineral Resources Division, Ministry of Power and Energy and Mineral resources to oversee and coordinate the related activities, has recently given a roadmap to at least 26 ministries, divisions and agencies concerned to specify their work plan and implementation of strategies with regard to blue economy.
Commodore AA Mamun Chowdhury (N), ndc,psc, BN, a former high official at the Blue Economy Cell told Bangladesh Post that the government gives all-out effort in tapping the potentials of Blue Economy to the highest possible level and that’s why the ‘Blue Economy Cell’ has been working relentlessly in cooperation with all the ministries, departments and divisions of the government concerned.
“First of all we need to asses or identify what assets or wealth is there beneath the sea in the jurisdiction of Bangladesh, that’s why we are immediately purchasing an ‘Oceanographic Survey Vessel’. Prime Minister has already given approval for purchasing this vessel, this one will be bought by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources but will be operated by Navy”, Commodore Mamun added.
He said the ocean based economic activities in Bangladesh mainly includes shipping, sea ports, inland water transports, ship recycling industries, fisheries, tourism, oil and gas etc. and the government plans to lay due importance on all of these sectors.
“But this is a huge task, so if we aim to achieve the targeted success I think that the Blue Economy Cell gradually will turn into a full ‘Division’ under the supervision of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) otherwise the implementation and coordination process may be hampered”, Commodore Mamun said.
Data suggest that Bangladesh has 1, 18,813 square kilometer of maritime area. Some 30 million Bangladeshis directly depend on oceanic economic activities like fisheries and commercial transportation. Coastal and Island developing countries have remained at the forefront of this Blue Economy advocacy, recognizing that the oceans have a major role to play in humanity’s future.
Sovereign rights have been established on more than 118,000 sq km of maritime territory, 200 nautical miles (NM) of exclusive economic zone, and 354 NM of continental shelf through the verdicts in international courts.
President of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industries (DCCI), Abul Kashem Khan told Bangladesh Post that 17 percent of our total fisheries; transportation of 90 percent of our international trade and about 30 million people of Bangladesh are linked with ocean based economy.
Citing the example of India and Myanmar, he said we need to explore new offshore gas reserves under the sea as the gas reserve in the main land is limited.
He said 800 million metric tons of fishes are caught in the Bay of Bengal every year and most of them are caught by India and Myanmar so the government has to formulate a “National Blue Ocean Economy Development Policy”.
“We have a large deposit of marine resources under the blue ocean. There is enormous possibility of exploring economic benefit out of the Bay of Bengal like deep sea fishing, tourism, port, marine transportation, oil and gas exploration”, Kashem said.
“Another potential area of blue economy for Bangladesh is ship building which is a $200 billion dollar industry. We are 3rd in the ship recycling industry in the world, while China is first. Sea based tourism is another potential area for Bangladesh. The world tourism market is of $1.3 trillion dollar, so we need to tap the possibility of coastal tourism”, Kashem added.
Sources said that only tourism sector of Thailand contributes to 19 percent of their GDP. Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) has identified few priority areas like deep sea fishing, biotech, tourism, sea bed exploration.
Experts opine that the concept of Blue Economy has opened a new horizon for economic development of the coastal countries through utilizing sea and marine resources at national and international level.
They said the fundamental principles of Blue Economy includes optimizing the benefits received from the development of their marine environments e.g. fishery agreements, bio prospecting, oil and mineral extraction, promoting national equity, including gender equality, and in particular the generation of inclusive growth and decent jobs for all, having their concerns and interests properly reflected in the development of seas beyond national jurisdiction, including the refinement of international governance mechanisms and their concerns as States proximate to seabed development.
At present, around 600 ships arrive in Bangladesh per year and anchor in the ports of Chittagong and Mongla. With this new opening of Blue Economy, obviously, a huge number of ships will anchor in the ports of Bangladesh, and earning from this sector is likely to increase substantially.
Experts opine that the ideas, principles, norms of Blue Economy lend significant contribution towards eradication of poverty, contributing to food and nutrition security, mitigation and adaptation of climate change and generation of sustainable and inclusive livelihoods.
But it needs a balanced approach between conservation, development and utilization of marine and coastal eco-systems, all oceanic resources and services with a view to enhancing their value and generating decent employment, secure productive marine economy and healthy marine eco-systems, they said.