Columnist Ali Basit: Since the times immemorial, oceans remained an important contour in charting the discourse of human progress. Humanity’s relation with oceans led to the development of many ancient civilizations. Livelihood largely remained associated with the seas and oceans as most of the commercial trade transit carried out through important waterways. How people can exploit and use the ocean based resources is evolving in significant ways for sustainable economy: an economic growth that sustains the natural resources and environment for future generations.
The shift from ‘Brown’ to ‘Green’ economy was profoundly felt necessary whence the former proved to be a destructive menace for the ecology and ecosystem in general. The industrial activities that our modern civilization depends upon, have raised atmospheric vulnerabilities and also played a pertinent role for bringing in the climate change (a result of natural causes, human activities, emission of greenhouse gases and changes in land use) which adversely affected the natural environment. As per the World Bank estimates, air pollution alone costs the global economy more than $5 trillion every year. Moving farther to minimize the effects of brown economy on earth, the world in 2008 pledged to move towards an economy with cleaner energy systems that encapsulates the usage of energy more efficiently to reduce the vulnerabilities of the non-friendly environmental factors and ingress much better natural resource management systems to nurture the economic growth; such an economy is termed as ‘Green’.
Meanwhile a book by Gunter Paul’s, titled: “The Blue Economy; 10 years, 100 innovations, 100 million jobs” surfaced in 2010 bringing the concept of blue economy into the limelight. But the question here arises that what exactly the concept of blue economy addresses. As per the Center for the Blue Economy, “it is the overall contribution of the oceans to economies, the need to address the environmental and ecological sustainability of the oceans, and the ocean economy as a growth opportunity for both developed and developing countries.” The concept at its core refers to promote economic growth, social inclusion, and the preservation of livelihoods while at the same time ensuring environmental sustainability of the oceans and coastal areas. The oceans are increasingly becoming the source of food and energy which is pertinent for the existence of life on the planet Earth. Many economists have estimated an asset value of $24 trillion to the ocean economy and as of now it’s delivering something between $4-500 billion each year in terms of the dividend to humanity.
People do understand that the oceans are not limitless and that they are suffering from increasing and often cumulative human impacts. And also the oceans that are not healthy and resilient are not able to support economic growth. The fact that oceans and seas matter for sustainable development is undeniable. An important challenge of the blue economy is to understand and better manage the various aspects of oceanic sustainability, ranging from sustainable fisheries to ecosystem. The second important aspect to highlight in this regard is realization of the effective management of ocean resources which requires collaboration across nation-states on different blue economic avenues and also synergy within various institutions of the nation-states.
Being an important maritime state in the Indian Ocean region, Pakistan is progressively apprehending the marvels of the Blue Economy. The country is blessed with approximately 1050 km long coastline and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covering about 240,000 sq. km. Pakistan’s sea trade route contributes about $66.5 billion dollars to economic growth, accumulates 31% of Pakistan’s GDP. Fish and seafood industry in Pakistan alone has the potential of generating the revenue of more than $1.2 billion. Moreover, Pakistan’s mangrove area, a sixth largest in the world, holds an annual value of about $20 million which can be extracted from mangrove dependent fish species and shrimp industry. Whereas, Pakistan National Shipping Corporation which handles about 99% import of gasoline products holds a very small number of cargo vessels that only carries 7% of cargo to the world, while the remaining 93% is handled by foreign companies which produce foreign exchange of about $1.5 billion annually. Such economic figures can contribute to overcome the economic instability of the country and put back the national economy on the success track. To optimally benefit from the country’s maritime sector, there is a need for an integrated National Maritime Policy to effectively capitalize the ocean based dividends.
Need of an hour is to formulate an effective national compliance mechanism and synergize the institutional efforts to untap the blue economic potentials. Moreover, CPEC is a significant platform to play a pivot role in this regard as it has already put forward plans for the activation of ocean based activities in a bid to explore the incredible maritime avenues. Furthermore, Pakistan should embark upon boosting its economy while focusing on maritime infrastructure, technology for offshore resource development, a strong fisheries and marine leisure sector (tourism), environment issues etc. 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 internalize the concept of a Blue Economy in policy, bilateral relations as well as international transactions.
Ali Basit is an independent researcher and alumnus of Quaid-i-Azam University. his areas of interest are international relations, Geo-politics and Maritime Security.