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Mission Possible – Transforming to BLUE Economy

Dr. Aneel Salman and Amjad Ali have explored the ways Blue Economy can revolutionize the economy of Pakistan if the country’s oceanic resources are efficiently utilized. They have also provided a sustainable framework which could establish and promote Blue Society in Pakistan.

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Dr. Aneel Salman and Amjad Ali |

“Whoever rules the waves, rules the world” – Alfred Thayer Mahan (The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1890)

Pakistan’s location at the crossroads of civilizations gives it a geostrategic position that has allowed it to play an important role as a global player. Pakistan is blessed with 2,90,058 square kilometers of seawaters and a 1047 kilometers long coast.

Annually, about 36,000 ships sail through its waters, about 40 percent of the total global ship that sails between industrialized Europe, Hydrocarbon Rich Middle East and the Energy Transporting Asia- Pacific Region pass by. This makes Pakistani waters and coastline in general and Port of Gwadar in particular, the most viable route of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Blue Economy: A new solution?

The modern world is facing so many problems related to social and economic development. The exploitation of natural and economic resources has drastically increased over time.

World communities are looking forward and moving towards a “Blue Economy” and trying to achieve sustainable economic growth. A blue economy is a policy tool of planning for development that highlights the coordination between the marine ecosystem and coastal economic zone system.

Read more: Pakistan’s timely approach towards Maritime Domain

According to the UN, the economic value of the ocean is around $ 3 to 6 trillion annually. Ocean also helps to mitigate the climate change impact and 50 percent of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) are absorbed and captured by the ocean. More than 3 billion people are directly dependent upon coastal and marine resources for their livelihood.

The blue society is playing a vital role in the process of transformation of the coastal economy into the blue economy, influenced by the blue growth positively. The concept of a Blue Society is new and has emerged from the European Commission project “Sea for Society”.

The aim of this project has encouraged the different stakeholders, marine researchers, civil society organizations, youth and citizens from Europe to participate in an open dialogue and shared knowledge of the societal issues related to the ocean. In other words, a vision for society has been developing where people get benefits from the ocean with massive potential while protecting its environmental integrity.

Fundamental to this vision is the establishment of the governance body, which recognized the ocean as a global common, managed collectively across the border and the sectors. The ocean is essential to balance the planet naturally and millions of undiscovered species were living in the ocean. It is an integral part of our health, well-being and our security system.

Read more: Why is the Economy not responding? 

Blue Society recognizes the critical role of the ocean in our lives and our need to preserve this inimitable resource. The blue society has raised an awareness related to the societal benefits from the ocean and built a narrative at the public and policy level.

Pakistan-A ‘Risk Society’

Pakistan is presented by Ulrich Beck in 1995 as a risk society. Risk is a consequence of industrialization and political processes that are blind and oblivious to their own effects and threats.

Blue society is a whole set of risk management techniques that come into play, rendering the risks amenable to direct policy intervention to help in the climate mitigation process and use the untapped potential of the blue economy in Pakistan.

An economy is not just a system for the fulfillment of materialistic needs of wealth creation but also has some serious environmental consequences, which increase the social conflicts between different groups in the globalizing marketplace.

The 2030 Agenda has 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which provided a common blueprint for peace and wealth for the people and planet, now and for future generations. The maritime sector of Pakistan is very important for security purposes due to its geographical location in the Indian Ocean.

Pakistan has fully acknowledged this goal and included it in its vision 2025. However, vision 2025 recognizes the need for sufficient and cost-effective resource building for sustainable growth. Recently, the government of Pakistan presented the “Official Maritime Doctrine”, which is not only elaborate but the need for awareness related to “Sea- Blindness” and highlighted the importance of the maritime sector for sustainable economic growth and security of Pakistan.

Read more: Making Pakistan a Maritime Nation: Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Zaidi

Pakistan has a huge potential in the fishery industry, the worth of exports around 2 billion US dollars. The fisheries industry of Pakistan is playing a vital role in the national food supply and national income which provides around 1.5 million employment directly and indirectly in the fishing and ancillary industries. Almost 95 percent of the international trade takes place through the sea at Port Qasim, Gwadar and Karachi.

Pakistan has one of the largest shipbreaking yards. ‘GADANI’ since the 1960s but India and Bangladesh are leading in shipbreaking in this region. The shipbreaking industry is the main source of iron ore and steel production for the demand of the infrastructure industry and provides millions of job opportunities in the coastal area.

Will Blue Economy benefit Pakistan?

The spending of Pakistan on seaborne trade (imports & exports) is around the US $ 3.5 billion as freight charges to foreign vessels. The integration of the Blue Economy in the national accounting system is very important, however, it lies elsewhere. As soon as it can be incorporated, the economy will be gaining importance to the government and national policymakers as well, because it will then open up a new avenue to alleviate the eternal problem of income and employment all over the world, especially in the developing and underdeveloped world.

To include the Gross Marine Product (GMP) in the national accounts system, will increase the size and the GDP growth of Pakistan. When the growth and size of the GDP are increasing, the overall economic activities also increase which creates so many employment opportunities. Pakistan has an excellent opportunity to explore and develop the coastal areas with Blue Economy for sustainable growth.

The Gross Marine Product of Pakistan is USD 1526.94 million (242.78 billion PKR) in 2020, which contributes to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by using the available data of multiple sectors of the Blue Economy in Pakistan such as fishery, shipbreaking, tourism, mangroves forest, shipping and ports.

Read more: Reaping the economic dividends of Mangrove conservation

Besides, the GMP figure of Pakistan is around 1.53 billion USD, which is less than the half figure of their neighboring countries (Bangladesh and India) and both countries are earning 6-7 billion USD per year.

The government needs to revise the policies of the maritime sector of Pakistan and identify the relevant issues and challenges in the main sectors of the maritime industry of Pakistan.  Moreover, the government needs to focus on the participation of the key stakeholders, civil society’s members, local people and national and international NGOs & investors, which play an important role in the sustainable blue growth in Pakistan.

Sustainability Framework of Blue Economy for Pakistan

To achieve sustainable blue growth is a long-term process that supports the economic growth of Pakistan. It needs to have concrete strategic planning and an effective management framework that makes the marine ecosystem a driving force for the national income of Pakistan. There are the following three components as Exploration of potential sectors, Research and Development (R&D) and generate information, Ocean Governance.

To identify and focus on all those sectors where the economic potential is very high like fishery, shipbreaking, coastal tourism, ocean energy and mangroves forest. However, it can be pushed towards blue growth and Pakistan can earn a handsome foreign exchange from it.

The R&D activities are crucial for innovation in every field which helps to overcome the issues in effective ways. Besides, to generate and collect the information, it is essential for certainty and ensuring the sustainability process.

Ocean literacy helps us to educate the local coastal population about ocean resources and their benefits and understand the importance of the oceanic resource. It also boosts the tourism activities because the literacy rate in the coastal population is low and it creates hurdles in the communication with foreign tourists and local people of the coastal area. The maritime monitoring system has provided us a clear picture of the oceanic activities and it can be achieved through R&D innovation.

Read more: Re-engineering of economy

Ocean governance is a key factor for blue growth because it tells us ‘how to use and manage oceanic resources in a sustainable manner which keeps the marine ecosystem healthy and productive for future use.

A good ocean governance practice is to adopt a comprehensive approach to integrate all the maritime and marine ecosystem problems in Pakistan. It should also address the common opportunities, and hurdles of the local people. Good governance also aims to make the public-private partnership with the relevant stakeholders, research institutions, public & private NGOs, members of the civil society and skilled professionals for the blue growth.

What does the Government need to do?

The government of Pakistan needs to take some effective initiatives related to the value-added of fishery products because the average price of exporting fish in 2019-2020 is USD 2.3/kg in the international market. The current price of fish is low as compared to our neighboring countries because the average price is around USD 6-7/kg in the region.

It needs to establish a blue society and include it in its national policy of the maritime industry of Pakistan. The collaboration of different relevant stakeholders, private & public financial and research institutions and other societal groups are very important for blue growth in Pakistan and the government can easily figure out all the challenges and issues related to the blue economy.

The government should also ensure the health and wealth of labor and safety measurements in the Gadani shipbreaking yard because, after the fire accident in the Gadani shipbreaking yard, the number of ship demolition is continuously decreasing in the last three years. The potential of this sector is high around 4-5 billion per year and the government needs to fully utilize the potential for economic growth.

Read more: Rethinking our oceans: Investing in The Blue Economy

The potential of coastal tourism is very high but unfortunately, the government of Pakistan cannot utilize it properly. It requires some basic infrastructure and recreational facilities in the tourist spots in the coastal areas like good security & hoteling system, transportation & banking facilities (ATMs) and making it easy for foreign and domestic tourists. The government needs to motivate the private sector for investment and to start a public-private partnership and give some tax exemptions to promote coastal tourism in Pakistan.

The government adopts the policy of replanting and conserves the mangroves forest due to climate change threats because the role of mangroves is very important for fish breeding and other aquaculture species in the coastal area. Mangroves also mitigate the climate change impact through blue carbon sequestration, which reduces the anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions.

Recently, the government of Pakistan announced the “Maritime Doctrine of Pakistan”, which provides the contextual intelligibility about all the relevant stakeholders and government bodies of maritime development and security importance of Pakistan. However, the government should be the mainstream in the Gross Marine Product (GMP) in maritime doctrine or maritime policy 2020.

Through GMP, the government will well understand and realize the untapped potential of the blue economy in Pakistan. It provides information about the key sectors of the blue economy related to the current contribution and potential where a country predicts the future benefits from ocean and ocean resources.

The way forward

To conclude, Pakistan can overcome all the economic and environmental challenges and transform in Blue society. The country is already on the path of the Blue Economy after signatory of SDGs goals and included in the 2025 vision of Pakistan, where Pakistan presents the maritime industry doctrine.

Pakistan needs some concrete and effective policies for blue growth and must consider the huge potential of key sectors of the Blue Economy in Pakistan such as fishery, shipbreaking, coastal tourism and shipping industry of Pakistan.

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

To achieve this goal the blue society plays a critical role in the blue growth, which integrates all the stakeholders for blue growth. It also provides a roadmap for the government to promote sustainable economic growth in Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan should establish and promote the blue society, which is the key to blue growth in Pakistan.

The writers are Environmental Economists based in Islamabad, Pakistan. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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