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Blue economy of Bangladesh: Prospects and challenges

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The Oceanic Economy popularly known as blue economy has emerged as a crucial development issue for optimum use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. Among the sustainable development goals (SDGs), SDG-14 focuses on sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. Ocean assets provide food and energy which are essential ingredients of human life. By overlooking the three-fourth proportion of the surface of earth, it is tough to achieve sustainable economic development by 2030. Given this, Bangladesh has adopted steps to ensure sustainable use the oceans, seas and marine resources attaining inclusive development and goal related to SDG-14.

Bangladesh has 710 km long coastline with an exclusive economic zone of 200 Nautical Miles inside the Bay of Bengal. Marine fisheries contribute 19.40 per cent of the total fish production of the country. Besides, on an average, 81.0 per cent of the international tourists visit Cox's Bazaar in Bangladesh. The ocean of Bangladesh is contributing a noteworthy role to its overall socio-economic growth through enhancing the economic activities across the country and especially to the coastal zone at southern part.

A new economic area for Bangladesh is demarcated in the Bay of Bengal. Already, Bangladesh has taken steps to flourish its Blue Economy in order to utilize its new marine resources. Since 2015, the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) has undertaken a number of consultations and workshops on Blue Economy. In addition, Seventh-Five Year Plan (7FYP) of Bangladesh has mentioned twelve actions for maintaining a prosperous and sustainable Blue Economy, which include fisheries, renewable energy, human resources, transshipment, tourism and climate change among others. Moreover, in 2017, the "Blue Economy Cell' under Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), GoB has been established with the mandate to coordinate Blue Economy initiatives across sectoral ministries.

Blue Economy has the prospect to contribute Bangladesh economy on a much higher level. Twenty six potential Blue Economy sectors have been identified by the MoFA which include the fishery, maritime trade and shipping, energy, tourism, coastal protection, maritime safety and surveillance for development of blue economy in Bangladesh.

SHIPPING: Mostly the Bangladesh's external freight trade is seaborne (2018) which is 90.0 per cent of the total freight trade of the country. Therefore, it appears that our economy may heavily depend on freight trade in future. So, to retain the huge amount of freight charges within the country, incentives might be provided to local shipping companies to add more ships to the existing fl eet. Besides, coastal shipping, seaports, passenger ferry services, inland water way transport, ship building and ship recycling industries should get more importance to carry on sustainable economic growth of our country.

FISHERY: Experts opine that fish alone has 500 varieties besides snails, shell-fish, crabs, sharks, octopuses and other animals. It is estimated that Bangladesh catches only 0.70 million tons of fish every year out of the total 8.0 million tons of fish available in the Bay of Bengal. It is worthwhile to mention that 15.0 percent of the protein is provided from sea resources for the people across the world. As many people depend on oceans for their livelihood and foods, increased efforts are needed to save ocean resources. Oil and gas: Bangladesh is yet to assess the true potential of its offshore gas prospects. Bangladesh could also have gas fields in its area of the sea. Bangladesh possess some gas fields in the land and like Myanmar, Bangladesh may have the potentials to get more gas fields in the sea which may add to the total reserve of gas of the country. Besides, oil and gas, sea salt, ocean renewable energy, blue energy (osmosis) and biomass, aggregates mining (sand, gravel, etc.) and marine genetic resource should get more attention as ocean resources. Therefore, these plenty of potential may contribute to our sustainable economic development in future.

TOURISM: Globally, coastal tourism is the largest market segment and represents 5.0 per cent of world Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and contributes 6.0-7.0 per cent of total employment. In 150 countries, it is one of five top export earners. It is the main source of foreign exchange for one-half of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Coastal tourism includes: (a) beach-based recreation and tourism; (b) tourist activities in proximity to the sea; and (c) nautical boating including yachting and marinas. Sustainable tourism can create new employment opportunities and reduce poverty. So, Bangladesh can earn foreign exchange from tourism industry which may contribute to GDP growth as well as help achieve SDGs by 2030. It is reported that the country has 75 outer-islands which could be utilised for tourists both local and foreign.

FUTURE OF EXPLORATION: Exploring and exploiting these sea resources through the use of appropriate technology, the economy of Bangladesh can grow rapidly. Bangladesh gained a defined maritime zone in the Bay of Bengal after a long time dispute settlement of maritime boundary with India and Myanmar. Bangladesh may pay attention in advancing its Blue Economy to utilise its vast sea region with sea-based resources through ensuring a sustainable balance between the protection of marine ecosystem and marine resources. Now, Bangladesh can create more spaces to ensure economic growth through fresh investments in marine trade and commerce.

The country has so far, explored only a few number of Blue Economy sectors such as fisheries and aquaculture, shipbuilding, ship breaking, salt generation and port facilities. Besides, most of these sectors are following traditional methods. Therefore, there still remains ample opportunities as well as challenges for exploring large number of blue economy sectors, safeguarding mangrove and ocean grass, addressing environmental changes and managing carbon discharge, and introducing innovative technology for further development to contribute in achieving sustainable development goals.

The piece is excerpted from Bangladesh Bank Annual Report (July 2019-June 2020).,bd

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