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Government and World Bank to conduct ‘blue economy’ study of Pakistan’s ocean

SAPM Malik Amin Aslam announced that the government and the World Bank will be conducting a survey of Pakistan's oceans and 'blue economy'

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Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Climate change Malik Amin Aslam has announced that the government and the World Bank will conduct a three-month study on Pakistan’s ocean waters. They will be assessing the carbon sequestered by the country’s ocean waters and mangrove forests.

Mangroves are tropical forests that thrive in saltwater, forming a canopy with the atmosphere and extensive roots in the intertidal zone’s sediment — the area that is above water at low tide and underwater at high tide. Scientists refer to them as “blue” carbon ecosystems, in contrast to “green” carbon ecosystems on land, such as forests and grasslands.

In a recent study, it has been estimated that the wood and soil of mangrove forests along the world’s coastlines hold 3 billion metric tons of carbon — more than tropical forests.

Speaking with media, Mr. Aslam said a blueprint had been developed to the economic value of millions of tons of carbons stored in the mangroves forest and subsequently in the country’s ocean waters.

Read more: World Bank doubles its assistance for Ehsaas Program.

“The study will help identify the scale of Pakistan’s ocean waters’ carbon storage potential. It will also help weigh up the amount of carbon storage capacity of the country’s entire ocean ecosystem as well as the carbons stored so far in the ocean waters and coastal mangrove forests.”

He added: “We believe that so far the country’s ocean waters have stored carbons worth economic value estimated to be billions of dollars.”

The PM’s aide said the country’s seabed territory expanded by around 50,000 square kilometers in 2015 after a UN body accepted Islamabad’s claim to extend the country’s sea limits.

“On March 19, 2015, United Nations’ Commission on Limits of Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) had completed its review and accepted Pakistan’s claim for extension of its continental shelf limits, extending Pakistan’s sea limits from 200 nautical miles to 350 nautical miles,” he added.

According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem.”

European Commission defines it as “All economic activities related to oceans, seas, and coasts. It covers a wide range of interlinked established and emerging sectors.”

The Commonwealth of Nations considers it “an emerging concept which encourages better stewardship of our ocean or ‘blue’ resources.”

Conservation International adds that “blue economy also includes economic benefits that may not be marketed, such as carbon storage, coastal protection, cultural values, and biodiversity.”

The Center for the Blue Economy says, “it is now a widely used term around the world with three related but distinct meanings- the overall contribution of the oceans to economies, the need to address the environmental and ecological sustainability of the oceans, and the ocean economy as a growth opportunity for both developed and developing countries.”

A United Nations representative recently defined the Blue Economy as an economy that “comprises a range of economic sectors and related policies that together determine whether the use of ocean resources is sustainable.

Oceanic sustainability is essential for blue economy

An important challenge of the blue economy is understanding and better managing the many aspects of oceanic sustainability, ranging from sustainable fisheries to ecosystem health to preventing pollution. Secondly, the blue economy challenges us to realize that the sustainable management of ocean resources will require collaboration across borders and sectors through various partnerships and on a scale that has not been previously achieved.

This is a tall order, particularly for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) who face significant limitations.” The UN notes that the Blue Economy will aid in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, of which one goal, 14, is “life below water.”

Read more: World Bank believes South Asia could be the next hotspot of economic devastation

World Wildlife Fund begins its report Principles for a Sustainable BLUE ECONOMY with two senses given to this term: “For some, blue economy means the use of the sea and its resources for sustainable economic development. For others, it simply refers to any economic activity in the maritime sector, whether sustainable or not.”

As the WWF reveals in its purpose of the report, there is still no widely accepted definition of the term blue economy despite increasing high-level adoption of it as a concept and as a goal of policy-making and investment. “These vital ecosystems sequester and store significant amounts of coastal blue carbon from the atmosphere and ocean. These coastal ecosystems are now considered of unprecedented importance for their role in climate change mitigation,” Mr. Amin Aslam added.

He lamented that coastal blue carbon ecosystems were some of the most threatened ecosystems on Earth despite numerous benefits and services, with an estimated annually 340,000 to 980,000 hectares being eroded.

Mangroves provided at least $1.6 billion annually in ecosystem services, supporting fisheries by providing critical spawning grounds for commercial fish species. They also filtered pollutants and contaminants from coastal waters and contributed to healthy coastal marine water quality besides protecting coastal communities against storms, floods, and erosion.

GVS News Desk