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Oceans are the Earth’s most valuable natural resources. Oceans provide energy, food, and livelihood opportunities among others. Oceans are also used for transportation; both travel and shipping.
At present, ~80% of world trade is seaborne. Indian Ocean is the world’s third largest ocean, covering an area more than 70 million sq. km.
With its geographic and geo-strategic position and critical dependence on the Indian Ocean, India has been leading the Blue Economy discourse at the highest level of the Government
Blue Economy: Concept
- Blue economy means leveraging economic potential of the oceans in a sustainable way.
- The concept was first given by Gunter Pauli in 2010 in his book “The blue economy, 10 years, 100 innovations, 100 million jobs”
- According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem”.
- The Commonwealth of Nations considers it “an emerging concept which encourages better
stewardship of our ocean or ‘blue’ resources”.
- Conservation International adds that “blue economy also includes economic benefits that may not be marketed, such as carbon storage, coastal protection, cultural values and biodiversity”.
Blue Economy: Scope
- Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) points out that Blue Economy would, “contribute to food security, poverty alleviation, the mitigation of and resilience to the impacts of climate change, enhanced trade and investment, enhanced maritime connectivity, enhanced diversification, job creation, and socio-economic growth”.
- Blue Economy requires innovative and dynamic business models, forming business connections between India and other relevant countries, especially those located in the Indian Ocean region.
- Blue Economy will enhance economic cooperation with littoral States in India’s neighbourhood.
- As India becomes more developed, maritime security will obtain more strategic dimension.
Blue Economy: India’s status
- Blue Economy accounts for roughly 4% of India’s GDP.
- Fisheries and minerals are the two most viable components of the blue economy in India.
- India is the second largest fish producing nation in the world and has a fleet of 250,000 fishing boats.
- The coastal economy sustains over 4 million fishermen.
- The two mineral deposits of commercial significance to developers in the Indian Ocean are polymetallic nodules and polymetallic huge sulphides.
- Polymetallic nodules contain nickel, cobalt, iron, and manganese and grow over millions of years on the seafloor. They are often discovered at the depth of 4-5 kms. In 1987, India was granted exclusive rights to explore polymetallic nodules in the Central Indian Ocean Basin.
- Indian Ocean’s Blue Economy has become a global economic corridor with India’s international commitments in the region under the UNCLOS, such as Search and Rescue, seabed mining, and counter-piracy.
- India’s emerging sectors are renewable ocean energy including offshore wind tidal and wave energy, offshore extraction of oil and gas, marine aquaculture etc.
Blue Economy: Challenges
- The focus is on “economy” and the “blue” component is sidelined making it unsustainable.
- No concrete definition of blue economy as the international rules and norms are still evolving.
- Technological constraints in exploring the deep sea minerals and resources. For example, collecting polymetallic nodules, D2O etc.
- Consequence of exploitation can lead to natural disasters such as tsunamis, cyclones, earthquakes and submarine volcanic eruptions.
- Maritime security needs to be strengthened to tackle piracy, smuggling, drugs peddling, arms trade, human trafficking.
- Climate change impacts on marine life, habitats and communities are undesirable.
Blue Economy: A way ahead for India
- Develop a “blue diplomacy cadre” through policies such as SAGAR, IORA, BIMSTEC, SAARC in the Indo-Pacific region.
- Strengthen “blue infrastructure” in terms of ports (Sagarmala), ship building industry (Make in India), multi logistics parks, naval bases.
- Integrated coastal zone management and implementing O-SMART (Ocean Services, Modelling, Application, Resources and Technology) strategy to augment capacity building in the Indian Ocean.
- Robust maritime security strategy that helps the growth of the Blue Economy by protecting navigation routes, giving important oceanographic data to marine industries, and protecting rights over valuable marine resources.
- Indian Coast Guard will have major role to play in averting major pollution incidents ,anti-poaching, search and rescue operations as an essential actor in non-traditional security.
India’s geography provides unprecedented opportunity of improving living standards, energy security and ecological resilience through blue economy.