By Baber Ali Bhatti
There are compelling reasons for Pakistan to endorse and internalise the concept of Blue Economy in policymaking, bilateral relations as well as international transactions.
Seventy percent of earth surface is covered by the oceans that can potentially support human activities. Approximately 91 per cent and 69 per cent trade by volume and value respectively is transported over the seas. Axiomatically, the oceans are rich in living and non-living resources. Oceans supply 32 per cent of hydrocarbons besides wind, wave, tidal, thermal and biomass energy.
Moreover, it is also a major supply of food and an avenue of livelihoods as a number of industries such as fishery, tourism, ports, shipping, and ship building are dependent on it. Along with that, around 60 per cent of the global population lives within 100 kilometres of the coast, and oceans contribute through resources and augment the services sector. These are the indicators that signify the economic value of seas. Its potential came to be labelled as Blue Economy.
Blue economy still can be viewed as a nascent concept. Gunter Pauli was the first to coin the idea of a Blue Economy in 2010. In 2012, during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), it was agreed by the participating countries to advance the concept of Green Economy for ‘sustainable development and poverty eradication’.
However, when relevance and applicability of the Green Economy was questioned by the island states, exchange of arguments led to the point that ‘the world’s Oceans and Seas require more in depth attention and coordinated action’. Furthermore, the UNDESA expert group meeting on Oceans, Seas and Sustainable Development, the work of the Global Ocean Commission, the Global Partnership for Oceans, and the UN five-year Action Agenda 2012-2016 had provided requisite prominence to the oceans and the seas. Meanwhile, the UN expanded the mandate of the UNCLOS and set on to address sea spaces beyond national jurisdiction, and also called for an ‘intergovernmental conference aimed at drafting a legally binding treaty to conserve marine life and govern the mostly lawless high seas beyond national jurisdiction’.
Pakistan has a sea front of about 1,050 kilometres along the Makran coast with larger Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf. These maritime spaces offer myriad of prospects for Pakistan to exploit ocean-based living and non-living resources, provide much needed economic opportunities, and generate employment for the well-being of the people.
Pakistan has a sea of about 1,050 kilometres along the Makran coast with larger Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf. These maritime spaces offer myriad of prospects for Pakistan to exploit ocean-based living and non-living resources
The Blue Economy is gradually finding reference in the national maritime thinking, and a recent article titled ‘Pakistan’s Blue Economy Potential and Prospects’ has highlighted that seas offer a number of opportunities for economic development, that the government should focus on this ‘untapped maritime potential’ of the country, and ‘turn from a brown economy to Blue Economy’.
The article also suggested that Pakistan should proactively pursue key areas such as (a) port infrastructure, including the associated rail and road systems; (b) the fisheries sector and best practices for sustainable development; (c) Stringent regulations to control marine pollution and check illegal fishing; and (d) quality human resource for seafaring duties on international shipping.
Therefore, Pakistan must formulate a comprehensive maritime policy and strategy through maritime ‘awareness and knowledge’ among policy makers and the public, and encourage public-private partnerships to engage the industry. Pakistan may confront a number of challenges while building upon its Blue Economy potential. However, Pakistan should embark upon boosting its economy while focusing on maritime infrastructure, technology for offshore resource development, a strong fishery industry, and marine leisure sector. All the required financial and technological support should be geared up for building, operating, and making economically profitable industries.
These are compelling reasons for Pakistan to endorse and internalise the concept of a Blue Economy in policy, bilateral relations as well as international transactions. Institutions should be established to work on blue economy that may guide Pakistan to harness the potential and engage itself in the sustainable development of living and non-living resources of the seas to advance economic growth and enhance human security. This can be supplemented by a successful regional seas program for ocean governance and management.
The writer is an Islamabad based lawyer. He can be reached at Live.firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @alibaberali