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Commitment to the development of the Blue Economy has been expressed by a mention in the budget speech. This has laid the foundation and will provide the initial traction to create the space for implementation of the strategy.

  • The development of the Blue Economy can play a critical role in nation building.
  • It would enhance the GDP, not just by exploitation of under-water resources but by developing it as a platform for infrastructure expansion into the ocean, especially when there is a shortage of space on land.
  • The idea is to expand port activities on the sea rather than on land.
  • There is possible re-calibration of its growth potential, first, by improving the measurement of its contribution to the economy and then through strategic policy interventions to enhance its contribution to manufacturing and services.
  • A time-bound action plan can be set using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-tested) formula.
  • A graded policy intervention will be the first part of implementation.
  • For the success of the idea, a dedicated national-level institution, skilled in such state-of-the-art analytical approaches, will have to be given this responsibility.

Scopes of growth and development

  • The sub-sectors includes blue trade in both goods and services, including the development of marine services (such as port services, ship repair, maritime finance and insurance, marine ICT and digitisation)
  • Blue investment (port and transloading in mid-seas, coastal-to-hinterland connectivity)
  • Blue SMEs — a sub-category of the SMEs as defined by the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME)
  • Blue manufacturing (development of dedicated industrial parks, as is being envisaged under the Sagarmala, protection risks of coastal natural calamities, etc.)
  • Some time-tested paradigms of PPPs (Public Private Partnerships) will be ideal for the growth and development of the sector.
  • A mechanism to coordinate the efforts of the coastal districts/municipalities/panchayats, coastal state governments, and the Union government will need to be established.

Meaning of the term “Blue Economy”

Blue economy’ is the integration of ocean economy development with values of social inclusion and environmental sustainability, along with dynamic and innovative business models.

For India, however, blue economy extends beyond being merely an economic and environmental proposition. It presents India with an unprecedented opportunity to meet its national objectives, strengthen connectivity with neighbours, and exert influence in the surrounding regions.

Introduction on oceans and Blue Economy

  • Oceans cover three quarters of the Earth’s surface, contain 97% of the Earth’s water, and represent 99% of the living area on the planet
  • Oceans are claimed to be ‘last frontiers’ of growth and development, but the immense potential that the Oceans present remains to be tapped fully
  • However, this potential needs to be harnessed in a balanced manner, where the preservation and health of Oceans are given their due importance, along with adherence to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 14 that states “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
  • The Ocean based Blue Economy is the next sunrise issue for development – “The Blue Economy: 10 years, 100 innovations, 100 million jobs”.
  • Blue Economy is based on the idea to use locally available resources and employ renewable inputs.
  • Marine based economic development will reduce environmental risks and mitigate ecological challenges. As a result, the optimized and responsible resource utilization will enable to achieve balanced socio­economic development

India’s Sagarmala initiative for port led development

  • India has a 7,517 km long coastline, 14,500 km of potentially navigable waterways, and strategic locations along major international maritime trade routes.
  • Data shows that despite its long coastline, India’s coasts only contribute to 15 percent of national trade activity.
  • The blueprint includes setting up new ports, modernizing existing ports, developing coastal zones and boosting local employment generation, establishing connectivity between ports and road, rail, multi-modal logistics parks, pipelines, and waterways, as well as promoting coastal community development.
  • This comprehensive plan is now pitched as India’s primary infrastructure focus, rivaling China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that seeks to expand and build regional connectivity infrastructure.
  • The government wants to transform the country’s ports and reduce logistics costs for domestic as well as import/export cargo by optimizing infrastructure investment.
  • The government has planned six megaports under the project, namely the Vizhinjam International Seaport (Kerala state), Colachel Seaport (Tamil Nadu), Vadhavan Port (Maharashtra), Tadadi Port (Karnataka), Machilipatnam Port (Andhra Pradesh), and Sagar Island Port (West Bengal).
  • India currently permits 100 percent FDI for the construction and maintenance of ports.

Key initiatives under Sagarmala are

  • Port modernization and new port development;
  • Port connectivity enhancement;
  • Port-led industrialization; and,
  • Coastal community development.

Advantage of coastal shipping in India

  • Logistics in India contribute to 19 percent of the GDP, and remains among the highest in the world as compared to China
  • Several studies show that using coastal shipping and inland waterways would be 60 to 80 percent cheaper than road or rail transport.
  • If coastal shipping is used to complement road and rail transport in India, it could therefore lead to significant logistics cost savings.

India to Develop New Sea Routes and Shipping Services

  • The Government proposes to develop new sea routes and shipping services connecting with various countries.
  • New sea routes are considered with a view to enhance regional connectivity from the strategic and trade perspectives, and also to enhance maritime cooperation with neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand.

Steps been initiated by the Government for preventive/ mitigating security measures to deal with sea-piracy

  • Guidelines for anti-piracy measures to be implemented on Indian Ships through issued by the Directorate General of Shipping for elaborate anti-piracy measures, including safe house/citadel for vessels.
  • Banning of sailing vessels to ply in waters south or west of the line joining Salala and Male.
  • Naval escort provided by Indian naval ships in the Gulf of Aden
  • Enhanced vigil by the Indian Navy in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EFZ) and westward up to 65 degree east longitude.
  • Active participation of India in the security meeting of the International Maritime Organization Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) and other international forums.
  • Directorate General of Shipping has issued circulars from time to time, emphasizing action to be taken by Indian Merchant Ships, Shipping companies and other departments.

Environmental Concerns

  • Ballast water: Cruise ships, large tankers, and bulk cargo carriers use a huge amount of ballast water, which is often taken on in the coastal waters in one region after ships discharge wastewater or unload cargo, and discharged at the next port of call, wherever more cargo is loaded. Ballast water discharge typically contains a variety of biological materials, including plants, animals, viruses, and bacteria. These materials often include non-native, nuisance, invasive, exotic species that can cause extensive ecological and economic damage to aquatic ecosystems along with serious human health problems.
  • Wildlife collisions: Marine mammals, such as whales and manatees, risk being struck by ships, causing injury and death.
  • Oil spills: While less frequent than the pollution that occurs from daily operations, oil spills have devastating effects. While being toxic to marine life, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the components in crude oil, are very difficult to clean up, and last for years in the sediment and marine environment.
  • Solid Waste: Solid waste generated on a ship includes glass, paper, cardboard, aluminium and steel cans, and plastics. It can be either non-hazardous or hazardous in nature. Solid waste that enters the ocean may become marine debris, and can then pose a threat to marine organisms, humans, coastal communities, and industries that utilize marine waters.

Lessons from Other Countries growing via Blue Economy

  • The strategies of Australia, China, and Mauritius, for example, view the potential of sustainable ocean economy in meeting their countries’ development objectives.
  • In Australia, offshore oil and gas and aquaculture industry have dominated the blue economy
  • In Mauritius, meanwhile, coastal tourism and seaport-related activities contribute the largest share
  • For China, fisheries, tourism, and transport lead its marine economy
  • Future plans and policies of these countries have laid additional emphasis on innovation, marine research and development, and marine information and communication technologies (ICT).
  • For India, the marine services sector could be the backbone of its blue economy. In line with the ‘Digital India’ and ‘Make in India’ initiatives
  • India must focus on marine ICTs, and transport (shipping) and communication services, and the creation of a knowledge hub for marine research and development, alongside the more traditional sectors like fisheries and coastal tourism.

Way forward

  • Regional focus has turned towards the Indian Ocean as the new frontier for sustainable economic development, alongside concerns of security issues.
  • India should build on the momentum it has created thus far and take on a larger responsibility in developing and securing the Indian Ocean by developing ideas, norms and road maps for an inclusive and collaborative ocean governance society.
  • Developing a normative framework for doing business and harnessing the ocean’s potential in a sustainable manner is another area where India could demonstrate leadership.
  • India should start by creating robust mechanisms for knowledge creation. For instance, diverse platforms for interaction between sect oral experts, professionals, scientists, and the business community could be envisaged.
  • The existing and new multilateral trading agreements should also be modified and defined in a way that enables the creation of sustainable infrastructure to meet the demands of future economic activities.

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