Centrality of Blue Economy in post-pandemic recovery

GS 3 – Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation

GS 2 – Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests

Source  : The Hindustan Times dated 07/06/2021 www.hindustantimes.com/opinion/after-the-pandemic-the-centrality-of-the-blue-economy-in-recovery-101623076536394.html

Context : One of the major challenges following the Covid-19  pandemic is the loss of livelihoods and jobs.

The Blue Economy represents enormous potential for sustainable economic activity and job creation after the crisis.

What is blue economy?
  • According to the World Bank blue economy is defined as “sustainable development of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem.”
  • The economic philosophy of the Blue Economy was first introduced in 1994 by Professor Gunter Pauli at the United Nations University (UNU) to reflect the needs of future growth and prosperity, along with the threats posed by global warming. 
  • The concept was based on developing more sustainable models of development including concepts of engineering based on “no waste and no emissions”. 
  • The Blue Economy assumed greater importance after the Third Earth Summit Conference – Rio+20 in 2012. 
  • The conference focused inter alia on expanding the concept of Green Economy to include the Blue Economy
  • The concept received a fillip when the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 14 sought to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development” as a guiding principle for global governance and use of ocean resources.
  • The Government of India (GOI)’s highlighted the Blue Economy as one of the 10 core dimensions of growth. 
Why is it important for India?
  • Vast Coastline:
    • With a coastline of nearly 7.5 thousand kilometres, India has a unique maritime position.
    • Nine of its 28 states are coastal, and the nation’s geography includes 1,382 islands.
    • There are nearly 199 ports, including 12 major ports that handle approximately 1,400 million tons of cargo each year.
  • Contribution to GDP
    • The blue economy, which consists of economic activities dependent on marine resources, comprises 4.1% of India’s economy.
  • Sustenance of coastal communities
    • The coastal economy sustains over 4 million fisherfolk and coastal communities.
  • Important oceanic resources
    • India’s Exclusive Economic Zone of over 2 million square kilometers has a bounty of living and non-living resources with significant recoverable resources such as crude oil and natural gas.
    • Fishery: 
      • Marine fisheries wealth around Indian coastline is estimated to have an annual harvestable potential of 4.4 million metric tonnes.
      • The  United  Nations  Food  and  Agriculture  Organization  (FAO) report states that while other world oceans are nearing their fisheries limit, in certain areas, the Indian Ocean‟s resources have the potential to sustain increased production.
    • Minerals
      • Indian Ocean contain vast amount of minerals, including the cobalt, zinc, manganese and rare earth materials. These minerals are needed for electronic industry to make smart phones, laptops and car components etc.
      • According to a release from the Ministry of Earth Sciences, the estimated polymetallic nodule resource potential in this area is 380 million tonnes (MT), containing 4.7 MT of nickel, 4.29 MT of copper, 0.55 MT of cobalt and 92.59 MT of manganese.
      • India has a 15-year contract with the International Seabed Authority (ISA), a UN backed body in charge of regulations for ocean floors, to explore 75,000 sq km in the Indian Ocean for polymetallic nodules
      • India also has a 15-year contract for the exploration of hydrothermal sulphides across 10,000 sq km southeast of Madagascar. Hydrothermal sulphides are like underwater volcanoes, in which heavy minerals are deposited, including rare earth elements like gold and platinum.
    • Energy resources: The main energy resources present in Indian Ocean are petroleum and gas hydrates. Petroleum products mainly includes the oil produced from offshore regions. Gas hydrates  are unusually compact chemical structures made of water and natural gas.
    • Salts: Seawater contain economically useful salts such as gypsum and common salt. Gypsum is useful in various industries.
Environmental concerns
  • Currently, India is considered the twelfth-largest source of marine litter and is projected to become the fifth-largest by 2025.
    • report by Pew Trusts (2020) suggests that plastic waste is entering the oceans at an annual rate of about 11 million metric tonnes (MMT), harming marine life and damaging habitats. 
  • Oil spills
    • Oil spills severely affect marine and coastal ecosystems. 
    • Eg : Research published in August 2008 showed that the 650 tonnes of oil bulk carrier MV Ocean Seraya spilled near Karwar on the west coast of India, affected marine fisheries in the area and have had a long-term impact on marine biota.
  • Emissions
    • Particulate matter emissions from maritime shipping leads to nearly half a million early deaths every year and costs over USD 50 billion annually in global health costs, according to Transport and Environment, an European campaign group.
  • Dangers of Deep Sea Mining
    • According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), these deep remote locations can be home to unique species that have adapted themselves to conditions such as poor oxygen and sunlight, high pressure and extremely low temperatures.
    • Such mining expeditions can make them go extinct even before they are known to science.
    • The  sediment plumes that will be generated as the suspended particles can rise to the surface, might  harm the filter feeders in the upper ocean layers.
Way forward

Keeping in mind the importance of the blue economy as well as the challenges, the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) rolled out the draft Blue Economy policy.

  • The policy document highlighted the blue economy as one of the ten core dimensions for national growth.
  • It emphasizes policies across several key sectors to achieve holistic growth of India’s economy. It recognizes the following seven thematic areas:
    • National accounting framework for the blue economy and ocean governance.
    • Coastal marine spatial planning and tourism.
    • Marine fisheriesaquaculture, and fish processing.
    • Manufacturing, emerging industries, trade, technology, services, and skill development.
    • Logistics, infrastructure and shipping, including trans-shipments.
    • Coastal and deep-sea mining and offshore energy.
    • Security, strategic dimensions, and international engagement.
India – Norway collaboration
  • The high-level panel for a sustainable ocean economy, co-chaired by the Norwegian Prime Minister (PM) came out with a report,  ‘ A Sustainable and Equitable Blue Recovery to the COVID-19 Crisis’
    • Every dollar invested in key ocean activities — such as increasing sustainable seafood production, decarbonising international shipping, scaling up offshore wind power and conserving and restoring mangroves — yields five times i.e. $5 in return, often more.
    • It also highlights five blue stimulus actions that can spur recovery and build a sustainable ocean economy in India and globally.
      1. Investments in coastal and marine ecosystem protection
      2. Sewage and wastewater infrastructure for coastal communities
      3.  Sustainable marine aquaculture
      4.  Incentives for zero-emission marine transport
      5. Sustainable ocean-based renewable energy.
  • India-Norway Task Force on Blue Economy for Sustainable Development :
    • It was inaugurated jointly by both the countries in 2020 to develop and follow up joint initiatives between the two countries
  • India-Norway Integrated Ocean Management Initiative
    • Researchers and officials are cooperating on improving the governance of ocean resources through marine spatial planning. 
  • India-Norway Marine Pollution Initiative
    • Piloting solutions for better waste management and recycling of plastic products.
  • Indian and Norwegian businesses in the maritime, marine and energy sectors are partnering and creating jobs while investing in green technologies
    • Eg :  Norwegian companies Kongsberg Maritime and Wilhelmsen have contracted Cochin Shipyard to build two zero-emission autonomous ferries. The vessels will replace two million km of truck transport, saving 5,000 tonnes of CO2 annually. The contract is an excellent example of the crucial role of the private sector
Other areas of cooperation include
  • Sustainable ship recycling
  • Green ports –  The Port of Oslo and JNPT in Maharashtra are starting a collaboration
  • Maritime knowledge cluster – Norwegian university NTNU and DG Shipping

The ocean has a role to play in strengthening resilience to economic and environmental disruptions. Investing in shipping decarbonization, sustainable seafood production and ocean-based renewable energy provides for better health outcomes, richer biodiversity, more secure jobs and a safer planet for generations to come.

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