INDIA’S VISION OF BLUE ECONOMY

Recent Context:

India plans policies to boost blue economy and explore Arctic region for energy and climatic research.

Background:

What is Blue Economy?

The ‘Blue Economy’ is an emerging concept which encourages better stewardship of our ocean or ‘blue’ resources. Similar to the ‘Green Economy’, the blue economy model aims for improvement of human wellbeing and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. International society believes that the blue economy covers three economic forms:

  • Economy coping with global water crisis
  • Innovative development economy
  • Development of marine economy

Blue economy is a term in economics relating to the exploitation, preservation and regeneration of the marine environment.  The term is generally used in the scope of International development when describing a sustainable development approach to coastal resources. This can include a wide range of economic sectors, from the more conventional fisheries, aquaculture, maritime transport, Coastal, marine and maritime tourism, or other traditional uses, to more emergent spaces such as coastal renewable energy, marine ecosystem services (i.e. blue carbon), seabed mining, and bio prospecting.

Objective:

The objective of the Blue Economy is to promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and employment opportunities within the Indian Ocean region’s maritime economic activities. The Blue Economy is determined to initiate appropriate programs for: the sustainable harnessing of ocean resources; research and development; developing relevant sectors of oceanography; stock assessment of marine resources; introducing marine aquaculture, deep sea/long line fishing and biotechnology; and human resource development; among others.

INDIA’S VISION OF THE BLUE ECONOMY

  • The economic philosophy of the Blue Economy was first introduced in 1994 by Professor Gunter Pauli at the United Nations University (UNU) to reflect the needs of future growth and prosperity, along with the threats posed by global warming. The concept was based on developing more sustainable models of development including concepts of engineering based on “no waste and no emissions”. The Blue Economy assumed greater importance after the Third Earth Summit Conference – Rio+20 in 2012. The conference focused inter alia on expanding the concept of Green Economy to include the Blue Economy. The concept received a fillip when the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 14 sought to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development” as a guiding principle for global governance and use of ocean resources. Several member nations have now evolved their own definitions and paradigms of the Blue Economy. Globally, the Blue Economy was expected to grow at double the rate of the rest of the world economy according to pre-pandemic OECD estimates. It must be noted that value addition from the Blue Economy includes that from coastal manufacturing and services, maritime trade, shipping, offshore and coastal energy, deep sea minerals, aquaculture and fisheries, and marine-related technologies.
  • The world-over different national and global initiatives are being undertaken to harness the Blue Economy. Countries like Australia, Brazil, U.K., U.S., Russia, and Norway have developed dedicated national ocean policies with measurable outcomes and budgetary provisions. Countries like Canada and Australia have enacted legislation and established hierarchal institutions at federal and state levels to ensure progress and monitoring of Blue Economy targets.
  • India was among the first in the world to create a Department of Ocean Development in 1981, now the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES). Based on the experience of more than three decades, India has come a long way with the launch of new programmes such as “Deep Ocean Mission,” “Oceanography from space” and “Launching of the data buoys” along the Indian coastline. These initiatives have enabled satellites to transmit data on various oceanographic features including weather for scientific analysis. MoES has joined the United Nations on the “Clean Seas Programme” to develop strategies for estimating and reducing Marine Litter/Plastic in the oceans, which is also a part of SDG-14. MoES has also signed two contracts with the International Seabed Authority (ISBA) for deep ocean exploration of minerals (Ploymetallic Nodules and Hydrothermal Sulphide) in the Indian Ocean. In order to reap the benefits of growth in these sectors, India must develop a sustainable policy for both upstream and downstream activities.
  • The Government of India’s Vision of New India by 2030 enunciated in February 2019 highlighted the Blue Economy as one of the ten core dimensions of growth. The Blue Economy was mentioned as the sixth dimension of this vision stressing the need for a coherent policy integrating different sectors so as to improve the lives of the coastal communities and accelerate development and employment. Recently, Prime Minister in his 74th Independence Day Speech in 2020 highlighted that in the contemporary context a neighbour is not just the one with whom we share a physical border but also those with whom there is harmony in relations. Closer to home there is also the ongoing objective to connect our island territories to submarine optical fiber cables to ensure high-speed broadband connectivity for the islands at par with services in the mainland. In this context India should recognize an important emerging economic and strategic axis that spreads from the East Coast of Africa to the Western Pacific Ocean, which can be called the Seychelles-Singapore-Samoa (SSS) axis. This axis should form the basis of a robust Blue Economy Policy for India.
  • India has a unique maritime position. Its 7517 km long coastline is home to nine coastal states and 1382 islands. The country has 12 major ports and 187 non-major ports, handling about 1400 million tons of cargo every year, as 95% of India’s trade by volume transits by sea. India’s Exclusive Economic Zone of over two million square kilometers is rich in living and non-living resources and holds significant recoverable resources of crude oil and of recoverable natural gas. The coastal economy also sustains over 4 million fishermen and other coastal communities. With these vast maritime interests, the Blue Economy in India has a vital relationship with the nation’s economic growth
  • In recent years, there have been a series of initiatives for sustainable development in the maritime domain. These initiatives are catalysts to strengthen the growth of India’s maritime interests and our Blue Economy. In the Post COVID-19 global scenario India is likely to witness significant growth in the marine sector by efficient and sustainable utilization of ocean resources. 
  • India should strive for efficient and sustainable utilization of ocean resources and to integrate and Boost Ocean related capabilities, capacities and skills, with a view to accelerate employment and gross value addition, while safeguarding the environment and in harmony with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  • A clear agenda based on a transparent policy framework needs to be formulated to develop India’s Blue Economy. The objective of this policy framework will be to enhance the country’s GDP by promoting sustainable and inclusive economic growth in this new domain while aligning India’s development agenda with national security goals and international commitments.

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