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Deconstructing Blue Economy in the Indo-Pacific

- by TERI & NMF & FICCI & KAS India

The National Maritime Foundation conducted the fourth diginar of a quadrilateral series on the theme Deconstructing Blue Economy in the Indo-Pacific on 18 December 2020. The fourth workshop was conducted to discuss holistic maritime security and the blue economy, which have a vital intrinsic link.

Key Takeaways and Policy Recommendations

(a) There are six major categories of stakeholders within the blue economy’s maritime domain, both offshore and onshore; The fishing sector, mercantile shipping sector, maritime leisure sector, tourism sector, ancillary maritime supply vessels and maritime safety and security.

(b) For coastal and cruise tourism to prosper, sustainable development of the ocean is vital. The need for a concerted effort is necessary to meet the objectives of sustainability, economic development, and security. No element can be considered singularly and there is a need to take concrete and collective measures to bring out a holistic concept of blue economy.

(c) Issues such as IUU have further taken a toll on the fishing sector, which is the main source of livelihood in many countries. Involvement at the high-level government level is required to resolve such issues to ensure food security and livelihood in the region. This could be achieved through the strengthening of region-based governance mechanisms.

(d) Blue Diplomacy in the form of policy driven initiatives like the Indo-Pacific Ocean’s Initiative (IPOI) are key in fostering the dialogue around Blue Economy. However, there are four major issues that presently restrict the actualisation of the concept of Blue Economy: - (i) Existing gap between resource exploitation and ecosystem restoration, sustainability and conservation. (ii) Imbalance between growth and sustainability factors. (iii) Lack of ocean governance framework to address issues like IUU. (iv) General unwillingness among some stakeholders to participate in building of the Blue Economy due to the apprehensions over profitability and the lack of clear policy guidelines.

(e) The essential themes of the Indian vision of SAGAR identified as security, capacity building, collective action, sustainable development and regional connectivity are pillars that can support national or regional Blue Economy.

(f) The IPCC report 2019 clearly stated that by 2100 the oceans would absorb two to four times more heat than it has in the past 50 years. This is an urgent concern as the degradation of the ocean becomes a national security threat and existential crisis for a lot of countries. However, many documents coming from institutions like the world bank and OECD countries still see a traditional articulation of Blue Economy that is limited to extraction of living marine resources or renewable resources, with a focus on trade and commerce. The health of the oceans is also an important aspect of Blue Economy and therefore there is a need for a more holistic approach to Blue Economy.

(g) There is a need to invest in a shared regional vision of the Blue Economy that can overcome years of neglect and ignorance. There has to be a knowledge-based view and balance between codified knowledge and tacit forms of knowledge. Blue economy merely cannot be limited to an economic logic but has to consider socio-cultural relations, whether it is between states or people.

(h) India has the potential to influence the Indian Ocean Region and sell the idea of Blue Economy.

(i) To progress Blue Economy there is a need of a functional business model, the various aspects of which can be better channelised by technology and innovations. This would need investments, which can be sought from developed nations who would also benefit from the holistic approach.

(j) There is an existing skill gap and lack of awareness of the advantages of Blue Economy. There is, therefore, a need for a strong research community and technocrats who will increase the awareness levels. Concepts like marine spatial planning need to be given importance.

(k) There is a lack of awareness about the economic impact of marine pollution. Marine pollution not only impacts tourism and while it is dangerous to critical infrastructure like energy plants. However, it also provides employment for people engaged in recycling some marine pollutants.

(l) To address marine pollution regional frameworks like the G20 marine litter framework could be tapped to engage stakeholders in order to address the problem.

(m) Actualisation of Blue Economy is at the heart of the IPOI and can be achieved by interconnecting the seven pillars with each other, and not by pursuing them independently.

(n) All countries need to look at achieving an Indo-Pacific Economic Cooperative (IPEC) structure. Towards this harmonisation of regulatory measures with new rules and disciplines and adoption of good regulatory practices towards the creation of a single window system is considered essential.

(o) Clean energy plays an important role in Blue Economy. Generation of offshore renewable energy, adoption of hydrogen fuel as a source of clean energy and searching for alternatives to renewable energy are considered viable ways to promote Blue Energy, regionally and globally. The export of Low-Temperature Thermal Desalination Technology to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) by India would go a long way in supporting Blue Economy.

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Peter Rimmele

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