On September 25, 2015, leaders of 193 countries of the world unanimously adopted the post-2015 international development agenda for the period of 2015-2030, popularly known as Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). SDGs are the framework for global development after the terminal year (2015) of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). With 17 goals and 169 targets, SDGs represent a bold new agenda for ending poverty, fighting inequality, tackling adverse effects of climate change and ensuring a sustainable future for all. The Sustainable Development Goals, is the blueprint for achieving a better and more sustainable future for all. The goals interconnect and in order to leave no one behind, it is important that Bangladesh achieve each goal and target by 2030.
Apart from the fact that SDGs contain a larger number of goals covering a broader set of issues when compared with MDGs and hence make the agenda more challenging, there are a number of significant differences between the two. SDGs are meant for all countries- not just for developing countries. A look at some of the goals and targets of SDGs-especially those related to growth, employment, education and health-would indicate an emphasis on qualitative aspects of development.
'Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources' is the theme of SDG number 14. The world's oceans -their temperature, chemistry, currents and life-drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for human kind. Efficient management of this vital resource is essential for humanity as a whole, and to counter balance the effects of climate change.
Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. Globally, the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at $3 trillion per year or about five per cent of global GDP. Oceans contain nearly 200,000 identified species, but actual numbers may lie in the millions. Oceans also absorb about 30 per cent of carbon dioxide produced by humans, worsening the impacts of global warming. Oceans serve as the world's largest source of protein.
Due to these reasons, in recent times, scientists and researchers have revealed that 30 per cent of the world's fish stocks have been overexploited, plunging them below the level at which they could earlier produce sustainable yields. Oceans also absorb about 30 per cent of the carbon dioxide produced by humans, and as a result, there have been a 26 per cent rise in ocean acidification since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Marine pollution, bulk of which comes from land-based sources, is reaching alarming levels. An average of 13,000 pieces of plastic litter can be found on every square kilometre of the ocean.
The prime purpose of SDG 14 is to sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems from pollution, as well as to address the impacts of ocean acidification, enhance conservation and sustainable use of ocean-based resources through international law.
Marine fisheries directly or indirectly employ over 200 million people. Subsidies for fishing are contributing to the rapid depletion of many fish species and are preventing efforts to save and restore global fisheries and related jobs, causing ocean fisheries to generate US$50 billion less per year than they could.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), nearly 90 per cent of the world's fish stocks are overexploited or have reached their maximum level of exploitation. A recent report estimated that 75 per cent of remaining coral reefs, the world's most diverse marine ecosystem, are currently threatened, and many have already been lost. It is projected that if this continues and the greenhouse gas is emitted at the current rate, then coral reefs will disappear by 2050. But such losses are not inevitable.
New research shows that the sustainable management of fisheries makes economic sense. Within 10 years, profits in the fishing sector could be worth as much as US$51 billion annually or 115 per cent more than the current amount, if fisheries are managed sustainably.
Like other countries, marine resources can be utilised properly in Bangladesh. The country has 118,813 square kilometres of the Bay of Bengal, including both territorial sea and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). With the peaceful delimitation of maritime boundaries with neighbouring Myanmar and India in 2014, the Bangladesh government embarked on a journey towards unlocking the potentials from better access to sea and ocean resources.
Bangladesh's total marine waters stand at 121,110 square kilometres, of which coastal waters and the shallow shelf sea constitute about 20 and 35 per cent respectively. The remaining 45 per cent is in deeper waters.
Almost all marine fishing in the country is carried out in shallow and shelf waters. Beyond this, no fishing is done at the moment due to lack of appropriate vessels, fishing technologies and human capacity.
Still the blue economy is now well-recognised as a new area for development in Bangladesh. Shipping, sea ports, shipbuilding and recycling, marine fisheries, sea salt, coastal tourism, ocean energy, land reclamation, maritime surveillance, human resources development and governance have been identified as key priority issues for the development of blue economy.
In order to achieve SDG 14, Bangladesh needs to pursue strategies in oceans, seas and marine resources, inter alia: (1) Developing Waste Reception Facilities at port(s) and contingency plan to fight against oil spillage; (2) Identifying critical areas for marine ecology; (3) Creating Coastal Green Belt; (4) Formulating National Marine Fisheries Policy during the 7th FYP; (5) Developing inventory of marine biological resources, particularly in recently resolved South-west waters of EEZ (19,467 sq. km); (6) Promoting technology for production of seed for culturing marine fish and seaweed; (7) Protecting around five per cent of coastal and 1.34 per cent of marine areas by 2020; (8) Extending fishing areas by using new technologies and methods even beyond EEZ in the International waters; and (8) Developing capacity for the relevant agencies, strengthening of monitoring, control and surveillance system in the Bay of Bengal.
Proper and efficient implementation of these strategies can strengthen the blue economy. Also, these steps, if taken effectively, can curb pollution and ocean acidification.
Dr. Muhammad Abdul Mazid is a former secretary to the Government of Bangladesh and former Chairman of National Board of Revenue.
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