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The rapid population rise has put an immense pressure on the natural resources. Population growth has outpaced the regenerative capacity of the natural systems, more so for the land based ecosystems. Oceans are 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. Most littoral States along the Indian Ocean are developing countries, making the economic and sustainable development challenging. These countries are home to ~33% of world’s population that rely on marine resources. The marine resources acquire both economic and strategic dimensions in this context. 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, with a greater focus on the Indian Ocean region.
Concept of Blue Economy
The Blue Economy encompasses a wide range of economic activities pertaining to the sustainable development of resources and assets in the oceans, related rivers, water bodies, and coastal regions in a manner that ensures equity, inclusion, innovation. Blue Economy is subtly distinguishable from the “Ocean Economy” in terms of nuance and emphasis. Blue Economy is a newer and more contemporary term, popular with Small Island Developing States (SIDS) as well as international organisations, media, experts, and governments in a growing number of countries. The Blue Economy is viewed as an integral element of Sustainable Development Goals.
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“.
Focus on Blue Economy
First, 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”.
Second, From the business perspective, 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.
Third, A focus on Blue Economy will enhance economic cooperation with littoral States in India’s neighbourhood.
Fourth, As India becomes more developed, maritime security will obtain more strategic dimension.
Overview of India’s Blue Economy
Blue Economy accounts for roughly 4% of the GDP and is estimated to increase further in this decade. This sector has stood strong despite the challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and has recorded exports worth US$ 2 billion between April 2021-February 2022.
Fisheries and minerals are the two most viable components of the blue economy in India. The two mineral deposits of commercial significance to developers in the Indian Ocean are polymetallic nodules and polymetallic huge sulphides. Polymetallic nodules (size similar to golf or tennis ball) 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. It has explored four million square miles and has established two mine locations since then.
The coastal economy sustains over 4 million fishermen. India is the second largest fish producing nation in the world and has a fleet of 250,000 fishing boats. India’s coastline extends to 7,500 kms. Nine Indian States have access to the coastline. The Government had established the ‘Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund‘ (FIDF) in 2018-19 with a fund size of INR 7,522.48 crores to provide concessional credit to State/UT Governments and the private sector to fill significant gaps in the fisheries infrastructure. The Government of India also launched the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY), in May 2020, with an investment of INR 20,050 crores (US$ 5 billion) to bring about a Blue Revolution through sustainable and responsible development of the fisheries sector.
There are more than 200 ports, of which 12 are major ports that handled 541.76 million tones in FY 2021.
Shipbuilding and shipping are also important aspects of the blue economy. The modal share of coastal shipping has the potential to increase to 33% by 2035, up from roughly 6% at present. Most of the country’s oil and gas are supplied by sea, making the Indian Ocean region critical to India’s economic growth. This reliance is expected to increase dramatically in future.
The Indian Ocean’s Blue Economy has become a global economic corridor. India has significant diplomatic interests in the Indo-Pacific, as well as international commitments in the region under the UNCLOS, such as Search and Rescue, seabed mining, and counter-piracy.
India has focused on the development of sectors viz. fisheries, shipping, ports, and maritime logistics, marine coastal tourism and leisure, conventional minerals exploration and production, and marine construction activities. Other emerging sectors are renewable ocean energy including offshore wind tidal and wave energy, offshore extraction of oil and gas in deep-sea, seabed mining for metals and minerals, marine aquaculture, marine biotechnology, ocean monitoring, control and surveillance, and education and research etc.
Maritime Security Strategy
India’s maritime security strategy focuses on all aspects of the challenges including the ocean economy that are affecting the health and the future of oceans. Security issues have seen a transition, as maritime security has shifted from military and traditional issues to threats that are not military or traditional. Maritime Security, as sub-domain of Blue Economy has achieved significance: (a) To address environmental degradation, ocean trade security, migration, climate change, energy security, drug trafficking, and piracy; (b) The opening of new sea lanes and expansion in maritime trade highlight the importance of focusing on maritime security; (c) Maritime security 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 and activities in claimed zones of maritime
|Read More: [Yojana November Summary] Paradigm of Coastal Security – Explained, pointwise|
Indian Coast Guard: An Enabler of Maritime Blue Economy
India has a 7517 km coastline, 1197 islands, and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) spanning 2.01 million sq km, which is expected to go up to almost 3 million sq km after the delimitation of the continental shelf.
India is strategically located between two important choke points namely the Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca, through which most of the trade in commercial shipping moves in the Indian Ocean.
The traffic of hazardous and noxious substances for industrial and energy purposes is constantly increasing. Many nations on the rim are facing domestic political turmoil and regional stability is therefore only transitory. Piracy and other transnational crimes including drugs and arms trafficking are rampant. Such crimes support militant activism and homemade insurgencies. Considering the future of the exploitation of ocean resources in the IOR, the Indian Coast Guard will have a major role to play: (a) Averting major pollution incidents; (b) Anti-poaching, and Search & Rescue; (c) As an essential actor in non-traditional security; (d) As a major maritime law enforcement agencies in the Indian Ocean Region.
The Indian Coast Guard has been carrying out duties such as quickly responding to oil spills, helping mariners in distress at sea, warning vessels during bad weather, offering assistance during scientific experiments and augmenting the national defence resources. These duties coupled with other challenges would be the focus area of the enablers of the Blue Economy.
As Blue Economy gains prominence, maritime transportation and information systems, growth of ports and shipping, mineral research and exploitation, emerging threats to the marine environment, and changing national security concerns will shape the course of the Nation. More than ever, India will call upon the Coast Guard to serve the national interests on the high seas, along the Nation’s maritime borders and coasts. Mindful of these responsibilities, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has charted its course and embarked on an ambitious plan to renew assets and increase capabilities, by matching its high-performing people with modern equipment and technologies, the ICG will always remain ready to meet the challenges ahead.
Source: Yojana November 2022, UN