Currently 36 per cent of the total population of Bangladesh are youths. In future these young people will be the main driving force for sustainable development of the country. The economy of Japan did not progress as expected in the current century because they could not use youth energy properly. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), currently working age population in Bangladesh is 106.1 million. Actual labour force is 62.1 million; 59.5 million is employed and 2.6 million is unemployed. The oceans provide food and livelihood to a significant portion of the world's population and transport about 80 per cent merchandise of global trade. Oceans cover 72 per cent of the surface of our blue planet and constitute more than 95 per cent of the biosphere. The first UN Sustainable Blue Economy Conference (26-28 November 2018, Nairobi) and the 7th Sustainable Maritime Conference (20-22 November 2019, Paris) emphasise on "Enhancing youth participation and access to opportunities in the sustainable blue economy"
Blue economy is a concept and economic model that balances economic development with equity and environmental protection, and one that uses marine resources to meet current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own. Already the global blue economy, through fisheries, aquaculture, coastal and marine tourism, ports, shipping, marine renewable energy and many other activities generates global values and added of over US$1.5 trillion, a figure that is projected to double by 2030.
According to the UN declaration, "globally 120 million young people reach the age of performance every year". Rural fisheries and aquaculture projects can create valuable employment opportunities for the youth. According to the Kenya institute for public policy research and analysis (KIPPRA) report, over half the world's population lives within three kilometers of a water body, and in the developing world, majority of this young population are unemployed. A 'Blue Growth Framework' can strengthen the collective action of youth, increase their economic income and ability. The conversation of blue growth of young people can influence policy making level. Besides the government, many NGOs are working for youth development. Plan International Bangladesh and Rupantar have given the highest priority to youth in their national strategic plan. Plan International has already started improving the skills of 12 million youths with the help of about 22 PNGOs in Bangladesh.
Blue Economy plays a vital role in the development of many countries around the world like Indonesia, Australia, Denmark, Spain, UK, USA etc. Bangladesh can get inspiration that at present, the economy of the world is estimated to be US$88 trillion, of which US$24 trillion is expected to come from sea resources by 2050.
However, global ocean observing system (GOOS) and LME assessments show significant warming trends from which model projections 2040-2060 forecast a steady decline in ocean productivity. So we should protect the world from the environmental disaster now.
Bangladesh is a river basin country with about 700 rivers including tributaries. It has one of the largest inland water transport network in the world. According to the World Bank report, 2 million youths enter the job market every year. The unemployment rate is 10.6 per cent (BBS). Bangladesh has settled maritime boundary disputes with Myanmar in 2012 and with India in 2014 and has acquired 118,813 square kilometers of the Bay of Bengal. This area is 200 nautical miles and over 354 nautical miles on seabed that is an exclusive economic zone. It is estimated that Bangladesh can catch 0.70 million tons of fish and produces 22MT salt every year from the Bay of Bengal.
'National Oceanographic and Maritime Institute' research show that 10,000 tourists visit Saint Martin's island every day. Scientists believe that there are 13 heavy mineral-rich silts in the adjacent sea areas of Bangladesh, such as uranium, thorium, limonite, garnet, colemanite, zircon, retile, and magnetite.
UNICEF awarded the "Champion of skill development for youth" to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh on 27 September, 2019 for her outstanding contribution to youth development. Bangladesh is now IORA Vice-Chair for 2019-21 and is slated to become its Chair for 2021-23 year. IORA can help Bangladesh technically to attain the desired maritime development. It is estimated that 5 per cent GDP could be acquired by 2030 from the sea resources of the country. By utilising marine resources properly and increasing the employment of youth in this sector, Bangladesh hopefully will experience remarkable improvement in its socio-economic condition.
Md. Mustafizur Rahman is a development researcher.
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