Whether it is through the network cables across the ocean floor on which global communications rely, the oil and gas exploration on the ocean floor or the availability of fishery resources, the ocean has been an integral part of the global economy for a long time. Since the government of Bangladesh resolved its maritime boundary disputes with Myanmar in 2012 and with India in 2014, it has been engaging in research to promote and take advantage of blue economy in Bangladesh.
Four Facts About Blue Economy in Bangladesh
- The economy in Bangladesh derives more than $6 billion annually from the ocean with the potential to increase. In the 2014-15 fiscal year, the gross value addition (GVA) of Bangladesh’s ocean economy was around $6.2 billion, which is 3.3 percent of the country’s total GVA. Yet, while settling disputes has given Bangladesh the right to explore resources within 118,813 square kilometers of the Bay of Bengal, the country has not yet seized the opportunity.
- Almost 90 percent of Bangladesh’s trade is done by sea. Approximately 17 million people are employed in the fisheries and the agricultural sector with even more people depending on the sea for income, food security and nutrition. So, if realized to its full potential, blue economy could have a major positive impact on the country.
- Because of poor initiative in Bangladesh, much of the potential in the 26 sectors identified for a blue economy has not yet been realized. In 2017, the Blue Economy Cell (BEC) was established under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, but that is the extent of the actions taken by the Bangladeshi government. So far, this cell has only held a few meetings.
- On October 25, 2018, the Bangladeshi government and the World Bank signed an agreement to finance a $240 million project. “The Sustainable and Marine Fisheries Project will help improve the fisheries management system, necessary infrastructure and value-chain investments and it will encourage the private sector to invest more towards the availability and quality of sea fish.” The project will also assist in reforming policies and regulations for fisheries. Since the fisheries sector is the second largest export earning sector of the country, this project should add more to the initiatives for blue economy in Bangladesh.
Uses of Blue Economy in Bangladesh
- Marine Biotechnology: The opportunity to apply marine biotechnology in Bangladesh is very promising. Marine organisms can be used as a source of new materials in healthcare, including antibiotics, anti-cancer, bioactive compounds, nutritional supplements and other pharmaceutical drugs.
- Carbon Sequestration: Bangladesh is blessed with mangrove forests, saltmarsh and seagrass beds. While the carbon stored by these ecosystems still needs to be researched, it could provide carbon trading mechanisms.
- Oil, Gas & Minerals Mining: There is potential for oil, gas and mineral resources that have yet to be explored within the boundaries of the Bay of Bengal. Managed correctly, these resources could be used to create more jobs, infrastructure and improvements in public service.
- Policy Reforms: Developing this sector would require different policy scenarios, taking into account the costs and benefits of the different paths that Bangladesh’s blue economy could take. Once that is done, the government could set targets and goals accordingly.
- Coordinated Planning Process: A coordinated planning process for the sustainable development of blue economy in Bangladesh would need the active participation of ministries and public organizations. At present, the Ministry of Environment and Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, Ministry of Shipping and Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism are reviewing or designing policies that could impact some of the sectors under blue economy.
Despite the many challenges ahead, blue economy in Bangladesh could serve as an important path for sustainable development in the country. More research, policy reforms and collaboration among different organizations could help the country realize the true potential of this economy.
– Farihah Tasneem