Bangladesh lacks a long-term strategic plan to explore the potentials of the blue economy, say experts and policy makers.
"Bangladesh's development progress in the future is dependent on its capacities to explore the untapped maritime potentials after the great victory against Myanmar and India in maritime boundaries. To unlock the potential of this victory, the government considers the blue economy as a new development frontier," Dr Shamsul Alam, state minister for planning, said at a seminar titled "Blue economy and maritime security: Bangladesh Perspective".
"We have a unique Delta Plan 2100 that covers maritime affairs and the blue economy. But we should have a long-term strategic action plan to catch the diversified arenas of the bay," he added at the event organised by Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS).
He emphasised on two specific issues for the sustainable development and proper utilisation of the blue economy, i.e., resource exploration and resource exploitation.
"Quick completion of a multidimensional survey of marine resources is perhaps yet to be done. Increased number of oceangoing vessels, modernisation and capacity building of the sea ports are very much needed. I do not know why the private sector is not coming up with oceangoing vessels," he added.
He proposed to establish a separate ministry for the blue economy or a separate division under the Ministry of Science and Technology.
The speakers said despite being awarded an additional 19,467 square kilometres of maritime area in 2014, Bangladesh is yet to utilise the full potentials of a blue economy.
"Not only fish or mineral resources, rather a blue economy may change the whole picture of the economy of Bangladesh. By utilising marine resources, various industries, including tourism, shipbuilding, deep sea fishing, container, medicine, and cosmetic industries can be developed," Rear Admiral Md Khurshed Alam, secretary, maritime affairs unit, said while presenting his paper.
Major General Mohammad Maksudur Rahman, director general, BIISS, said, "Bangladesh has targeted to increase the contribution of the blue economy to GDP by 9% in 2025 and 10% by 2030. Experts argue that Bangladesh has 120 trillion-dollar ocean resources which could make Bangladesh an Asian superpower."
He emphasised on creating a blue economy belt to utilise the huge untapped resources of the vast area of the sea.
In 2014, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas verdict gave Bangladesh the sovereign rights to 1,18,813 sq km territorial sea, 200 nautical miles of exclusive economic zone and all kinds of animal and non-animal resources under the 354 nautical mile continental shelf.
With the additional maritime area, Bangladesh found a maximum depth of 2,200 metres at the edge of its maritime boundary.
While speaking on maritime security, Prof Delwar Hossain, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka, mentioned about the balanced role of Bangladesh to deal with the regional, extra-regional and global power like China-India rivalry in the sea.
BIISS Chairman Kazi Imtiaz Hossain chaired the seminar while Abul Kalam Azad, professor of International Relations of Jahangirnagar University, former ambassador M Humayun Kabir spoke among others.
Source: The Business Standard