With the approval of the Bangladesh Maritime Zones Act, the country is now free to explore and exploit the rich marine resources of the Bay of Bengal and exercise the country’s right over the extended maritime boundary.
The Act has 14 chapters and 137 sections dealing with a number of maritime related issues which were absent in the previous Act. It has several new and contemporary issues such as maritime terrorism, ocean governance, exclusive economic zone, submarine cable, anti-piracy, criminal and civil jurisdiction in sea vessels and nuclear waste transportation etc.
According to the Act, Blue Economy is comprised of economic activities that directly or indirectly take place in the seas, oceans and coastal waters using sea/oceanic resources, exploration and exploitation of ocean resources in a sustainable manner.
There is also the provision for appropriate use of ocean and coastal waters and ocean products as main inputs, making use of goods and services to support activities of the oceans and seas and protection of the ocean environment.
Bangladesh will also have exclusive right for the construction, maintenance or operation of artificial island, offshore terminals, installations and other structures and devices necessary for the exploration and exploitation of the resources of the zone or for the convenience of shipping or for any other purposes.
According to the Act, Bangladesh government may make regulations to provide for the authorisation of persons or organisations to explore natural resources, or to recover or attempt to recover any such resources, in accordance with such terms and conditions as may be determined by the government.
With the adoption of the Act, the government has, of late, given utmost importance to blue economy and set a time-frame to start exploring the marine resources within the next few years.
The concept of the blue economy was, in fact, conceived at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, viewing the idea as an alternative economic model for sustainable development that puts the oceans at the centre of this approach.
Analysts, however, believe that the concept of the blue economy is complex and it will take time to develop human resources and technological capacity to discover marine resources.
The government has set up Bangladesh Institute of Marine Technology (BIMT) and introduced oceanography in the curriculum of two public universities to carry out research in the Bay of Bengal. There were only two marine academies in the country in 2009, currently there are 22 such academies. The government has also commissioned a survey vessel to conduct a study on fisheries in the Bay of Bengal. The government is also taking up a plan for exploring marine resources in the Bay of Bengal within the next two years.
The country’s first ocean research and survey ship is conducting the survey since 2016 to find out marine resources in the Bay of Bengal. Under the move, the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock launched a project titled Bangladesh Marine Fisheries Capacity Building at a cost of Tk 1.65 billion. The government is keen to complete the initial survey in the Bay of Bengal to ascertain the marine resources within a short time.
The WB consultants are expected to prepare a development project proposal (DPP) for an investment project based on the survey results where the clear path of exploring potential resources in the Bay and their contribution to the macro-economy would be detailed out. The WB will also help Bangladesh under its ‘Sustainable coastal and marine fisheries project’ in exploring the untapped resources of blue economy.
While geographical borders divide the countries in the sub-region, analysts believe that friendship across the ocean can unite them in a more desirable way. The IONS is not only a ray of hope for the Indian Ocean Region but also a forum of immense importance for the Asia-Pacific and the adjoining regions.
A healthy ocean is essential for leading a better life but oceans are at risk now due to over-fishing, marine pollution and global climate change. Overcoming those challenges and sustainable development of marine resources are the key to global economic growth.