Lack of expertise and policies restrains Bangladesh from developing blue economy though its rights over 360 km of territorial waters in the Bay of Bengal was established in 2012.
Foreign secretary Khurshed Alam told New Age Thursday that demarcation of the sea boundary with India, expected to be settled in June, would open up the opportunities to develop a blue economy in the country’s coastal and aquatic areas.
At present, the country’s gains from the sea are insignificant.
Experts said that several foreign countries and their companies were taking advantage of Bangladesh’s sea resources like gas, fish and shipping.
Out of around six million tonnes of fish caught from the Bay each year, the share of Bangladesh accounts for less than five per cent, they said.
India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand avail the major share marine fish as Bangladeshi fishermen cannot go beyond 30 miles in the bay with their wooden trawlers.
Lacking equipment, the country’s fishermen have to remain satisfied with very nominal portion of marine fish, said Bangladesh Frozen Food Exporters Association president Aminullah.
The government policies do not encourage Bangladeshi businessmen to fish in the deep sea, he said.
Only in December, the cabinet approved a draft bill seeking to give the national oceanographic research institute a permanent shape although the decision to establish it was taken 15 years back to carry out marine research in the Bay of Bengal.
The government’s controversial offshore oil and gas exploration policy drew criticism from the National Oil and Gas Committee.
The committee member secretary and economist Anu Muhammad said the policy hampered the country’s energy security due to unplanned leasing out of offshore gas blocks to international oil companies.
The Oil and Gas Committee wants the government to strengthen the state-run oil and gas exploration companies.
Lacking seafaring ships Bangladesh has to pay around $6 billion as freight charges to overseas shipping lines.
The number of ships owned by the state-owned shipping corporation dropped to six from 26 four decades back.
And state owned Bangladesh Shipping Corporation has no container ships.
The national flag carrier can carry no more than six per cent of bulk cargo, said BSC secretary Golam Hossain.
BSC discontinued its container service in the 1990s due to fierce competition from foreign shipping lines.
Meanwhile, the foreign ministry said that for the first time it has taken the initiative to formulate an economic concept paper on the prospects of the blue economy.
Key ministries and divisions are expected to attend an inter-ministerial meeting today to discuss development of blue economy, said officials.
Foreign ministry officials said a science based approach was essential to develop the country’s blue economy. The meeting could help produce the needed policies, they said.
A two-day Blue Economy Summit ended in Abu Dhabi Thursday adopting a declaration, which describes the blue economy as a tool to promote, inter alia, sustainable development, poverty eradication and climate change mitigation in small island developing states and coastal countries.
The Declaration stresses the importance of an enhanced mechanism for governing the high seas and urges further development of an integrated ecosystem approach to maintain balanced, healthy and productive marine ecosystems, including valuing blue capital and considering blue carbon trading.
The blue economy concept emphasizes conservation and sustainable management of oceans and complements the green economy. The blue economy approach recognizes the productivity of healthy ocean ecosystems as a way to safeguard sustainable ocean-based economies, as well as to ensure that SIDS and other coastal countries benefit from their marine resources.
The United Arab Emirates in partnership with the government of the Seychelles, hosted the Blue Economy Summit.
-With New Age input