Potentials of blue economy left untapped, no proper initiatives  

Administrative cell under ministry confined to holding meetings

Published: March 01, 2019 18:29:21 | Updated: March 02, 2019 09:42:54

Although 26 sectors have been identified to exploit the potentials of blue economy in the country, almost all the sectors remained untapped for lack of proper initiatives, says a UNB report. 

So far, only a small administrative cell, 'Blue Economy Cell (BEC)', was created in January 2017 under the Energy and Mineral Resources Division of the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, according to official sources.

But the activities of the BEC remained confined to holding occasional meetings as the administrative body is now inadequately equipped with a few officials sent on deputation.

Amid the dismal situation, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry made a recommendation to upgrade the BEC as an authority with permanent setup, but the recommendation has gone unheeded.

The 26 sectors identified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through two workshops at national level twice in 2014 and 2017. 

The sectors are shipping, coastal shipping, seaports, passenger ferry services, inland waterway transports, shipbuilding, ship recycling industries, fishery, aquaculture, coastal aquaculture and mariculture, marine acquaintance products, marine biotechnology, oil and gas, sea salt production, ocean renewable energy, tidal energy, blue energy (osmasis) and biomass, aggregate mining (sand, graveetc), marine mineral mining, coastal tourism, recreational water sports, yachting and marines, cruise tourism, coastal protection/artificial islands/greening coastal belts, human resource development, marine surveillance and marine special planning. 

Bangladesh won 19,467 square kilometres out of 25,602 sq km disputed areas from India in the Bay of Bengal following the settlement of maritime dispute with India on July 8, 2014.

The country won a claim to 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone and territorial rights in the Bay of Bengal following the settlement of dispute with Myanmar in December 18, 2013. 

Officials said those two settlement of disputes opened the door of huge blue economy.  Official sources said the government had formed a 25-member high-powered committee, headed by the principal secretary to the Prime Minister, to prepare a comprehensive plan on blue economy. 

But, in the last two years, there has been no headway in this regard because of the inactivity of the committee, said a top official of the Blue Economy Cell preferring anonymity. 

Foreign Ministry officials, however, said they have recently moved for a desktop study to analyse the data of an already conducted survey to identify the presence of gas-hydride, a kind of methane gas, which is normally found in low depth of 200-500 metres of under the sea while the natural gas is found in a depth of 3000-5000 metres under the sea. 

Meanwhile, the Energy and Mineral Resources Division moved twice for conducting a multi-client survey to identify the potentials of oil and gas exploration in the offshore areas. 

But the multi-client survey contract is yet to be awarded to any company for unknown reasons although a Norwegian company was selected by Petrobangla. 

Energy sector experts said the neighbouring India and Myanmar had moved much earlier to exploit potentials of their maritime areas. 

They said Myanmar has awarded its 20 offshore blocks to 13 international companies under production sharing contracts while it again moved for inviting international bids for another 30 offshore gas blocks.  India has also awarded a number of blocks to different international companies in recent years. 

About the offshore gas exploitation, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid said, "Currently, work on data analysis is going on." 

He said work on oil and gas exploration started in four blocks in deep and sallow sea under four Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) with five companies. 

The state minister also said some seismic surveys have already been completed.

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