Blue economy is ‘marine-based economic development that leads to improved human wellbeing and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.’
—Admiral Sunil Lanba (Retd) at Maritime Power Conference, 2017
Oceans cover three-quarters of the Earth’s surface, contain 97% of the Earth’s water, and represent 99% of the living space on the planet. Oceans are claimed to be the “last frontiers” of growth and development and yet their vast potential remains to be tapped fully. At the same time any plan to realise ocean potential needs to be progressed judiciously, with attention to preservation and health of Oceans, along with adherence to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal.
The concept of ‘blue growth’, which aims to promote the growth of ocean economies whilst holistically managing marine socio-ecological systems, is emerging within national and international maritime policy. Historical analogies that exist today, provide insights for contemporary planning and implementation of the blue economy. The objective of the Blue Economy has been to promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and opportunities within the Indian Ocean region’s maritime economic activities and initiate appropriate programs for the sustainable harnessing of ocean resources; research and development.
India has very recently articulated its own comprehensive Blue Economy policy framework, which aims to cover the coastal economy, tourism, marine fishery, technology, skill development, shipping, deep-sea mining, and capacity building in a holistic manner. K.M Panikkar observed how the control of the seas surrounding the Indian landmass have shaped Indian history. The narrative of this history reveals an uncontested medium for centuries and a cosmopolitan confluence of commerce and culture-defining oceanic connectivity. The colonial era brought power dimension to the milieu with the greatest blow felt on the maritime component of the economic well-being of indigenous efforts and political aspirations. Post Independence, India’s maritime journey has witnessed an evolving convergence of the Blue Economy and Maritime Power. In expanding India’s maritime activity towards the blue economy, we are developing a collaborative and macro approach to address these issues and manage them sustainably through maritime awareness and initiative.
WHY DO WE NEED BLUE ECONOMY?
Source: National Maritime Foundation, https://maritimeindia.org/blue-economy-a-catalyst-for-indias-neighbourhood-first-policy/
The oceans cover a large proportion of the earth’s surface and make up more than 95 per cent of the biosphere. They provide much of the world’s population with food and livelihoods and are a significant means of transport in global trade. Statistically, at least 3-5% of global GDP is derived from oceans.
Today, the seabed is a major source of hydrocarbons, and exploration in this area is expanding. New technologies are advancing the frontiers of marine resource development, including bio-prospecting and the mining of seabed mineral resources. The sea also offers vast potential for renewable “blue energy” production from wind, wave, tidal, thermal and biomass sources and maritime global trade. The potential of the oceans to meet sustainable development needs is enormous, but only if the oceans can be maintained and restored in a productive state.
The blue economy here, through sustainable use of oceans, has great potential for boosting economic growth by providing opportunities for income generation and improving livelihoods. Also, with that, advocating ocean development strategies for higher productivity and conservation of ocean ecosystem health. Although the term “blue economy” has been used in different ways, it is understood here as comprising the range of economic sectors and related policies that together determine whether the use of oceanic resources is sustainable. An important challenge of the blue economy is thus to understand and better manage the many aspects of oceanic sustainability, ranging from sustainable fisheries to ecosystem health to ocean economy. A second significant issue we try to comprehend is the realization that the sustainable management of ocean resources requires collaboration across nation-states.
THE GENESIS OF BLUE ECONOMY
Though Blue Economy as a term has entered the arena of regular international debate and discourse for the past several years, no commonly accepted definition has emerged so far. The idea of Blue Economy gained prominence with the publication of Gunter Pauli’s book in 2010. This was essentially his report to the Club of Rome. Here, we try to commiserate the evolution of this concept and various definitions given in the past few years.
The semantic articulation by Gunter Pauli- The UN University (UNU) first conceptualised Blue Economy in 1994. A Belgian born economist and entrepreneur, Gunter Pauli, was invited by the University to establish a think tank with the objective of creating a new economic model that added jobs and value to society without increasing polluting waste, emissions or cost of investments. He first established something called the Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives (ZERI) in Switzerland. ZERI’s focus was to move commerce and industry towards sustainability and has a sustainable development approach.
In 2010, ZERI narrowed down its proposal to 100 innovations (Annexure) and presented it in a report to the Club of Rome titled ‘The Blue Economy’. Thus ZERI could be considered the cradle of the Blue Economy. Pauli’s seminal work advocated Blue Economy as a business model that has the potential to transform society from scarcity to abundance with ‘what is locally available’. Gunter Pauli claimed that the success of the Blue Economy depends entirely on the intent of business leaders, industrialists, governments and the society at large.
Rio+20 consensus, 2012 – Another discourse where the Blue economy was defined was Rio + 20 Conference, 2012. The idea of the “blue economy” was conceived at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. The conference addressed key themes comprising the further development and refinement of the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development and the advancement of the “blue economy” concept. The outcome of the meeting reaffirmed its focus on the blue economy as a tool to achieve sustainable development and coastal community development.
VARIOUS OTHER DEFINITIONS AND DISCOURSES
Blue Economy Enabler: Case Study of Alang, India
The blue economy has diverse components, including established traditional ocean industries such as fisheries, tourism, and maritime transport, trade but also new and emerging activities, such as offshore renewable energy, aquaculture, seabed extractive activities, shipbuilding, shipbreaking and marine biotechnology, port development. Shipbuilding and the shipbreaking industry can contribute largely towards the blue economy. India has a maritime history of shipbuilders since the Indus Valley civilisation and continues to practice the traditional craft. The Ship Breaking Industry in India started blooming in the first decade of the 20th century. Presently, Alang, the largest ship breaking yard in the world, scraps more than half the ships of the world. The industry is being promoted as part of the Government’s Sagarmala project for the benefit of coastal communities and sustainability.
The government is exploring the options for promoting the industry, thus bringing in more buyers to sustain the industry. India has the capability to take initiatives in the field of tourism, culture, and sustainable development among others to her Indian Ocean neighbours and enhance collaborations in the multilateral forum.
CORRELATION OF BLUE ECONOMY AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development or Rio+20 took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012, where member states decided to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They agreed to establish a high-level political forum (HLPF) for sustainable development. Rio+20 eventually evolved into SDG 2016 and was known as Agenda 30, with a 15-year implementation time plan up to 2030.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provided a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for all member countries, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries — developed and developing — in a global partnership.
For example, the UN Sustainable Goals Report in line with the Blue Economy asserts that the ocean economy has an estimated turnover of between US$3 and 6 trillion. This includes employment, ecosystem services provided by the ocean, and cultural services. It is also estimated that fisheries and aquaculture contribute $US100 billion per year and about 260 million jobs to the global economy.
SDGs have greatly contributed to making a sustainable future for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Coastal Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Oceans and their related resources are the fundamental base upon which the economies and culture of many SIDS and coastal LDCs are built, and they are also central to their delivery of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A blue economy provides SIDS and coastal LDCs with a basis to pursue a low-carbon and resource-efficient path to economic growth and development designed to enhance livelihoods, create employment opportunities, as the SIDS and coastal LDCs often lack the capacity, skills and financial support to better develop their blue economy.
CONVERGENCE OF MARITIME POWER & BLUE ECONOMY
For any economic development to be sustainable, it has to be socially inclusive and environmentally viable. Thus, India’s growth as a Maritime Power has to be sustainable. India is naturally endowed with most constituents of Maritime Power arraying from Maritime geography, Maritime economy, Security, Resources and others.
Panikkar in his seminal work had exhorted that a Naval Power, however well organised, cannot count for much unless it is supplemented by a great national mercantile marine. He had lamented that the complete lack of attention to the sea by the British Indian authorities in the 19th century had led to the monopoly of foreign mercantile fleets in this subcontinent. Alfred Thayer Mahan, too, has pointed out the importance of indigenous mercantile marines to nations in his seminal work, The Influence of Sea Power upon History. He has famously written that the profound influence of sea commerce upon the wealth and strength of countries is clearly seen before the true principles which govern their growth and prosperity are detected. Though he has been emphatic about the need for Naval Power, he has also acknowledged that the economic elements of the seas are indeed significant for Maritime Power and so has Panikkar. Somen Banerjee in his monograph titled, ‘Maritime Power through Blue Economy in the Indian Context’ has succinctly captured the interplay between Maritime Power and Blue Economy and its development constituents.
Since 2014, India’s rise as a Maritime Power has begun to be visible in all its maritime assets like ports, inland waterways, fisheries, shipping, and tourism. The resurgence can be seen in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of Sagarmala, Neel Kranti and Sagar (India’s vision document for the region). Underlining the linkage between Blue Economy and Maritime Power, the government today is focusing on the development of eight key industrial sectors, namely, shipbuilding, shipbreaking, cruise tourism, inland waterways, seabed mining, port-led development, fishing.
Blue Economy: Navigating India’s Indian Ocean Vision
The blue economy concept was strongly advocated by the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in 2012, with an approach to transform traditional ocean economies into an ecosystem driven harnessing of oceanic resources. As the concept is still evolving internationally, with varying stakeholders adopting various definitions, India has reoriented itself, and is looking to develop its blue economy considering the country has a long coastline of 7,517 km with an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 2.02 mn. Sq.km.
In June 2016, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the prestigious apex business chamber of India, decided to establish a Task Force, composed of top domain experts and business leaders, for crafting a business model for the nation’s engagement with the Blue Economy. This came in the global context of the growing importance accorded to the Blue Economy as well as articulation of the Indian government’s vision during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Mauritius and Seychelles in March 2015.
Historically, two instances illustrated the emergence of the Blue Economy in India even before its conception. First, India was among the first in the world to create a Department of Ocean Development in 1981, now the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES). Based on the experience of more than three decades, India today has come a long way with the launch of new programmes such as “Deep Ocean Mission,” “Oceanography from space” and “Launching of the data buoys” along the Indian coastline. These initiatives have enabled satellites to transmit data on various oceanographic features including weather for scientific analysis.
Second, Nili Kranti started by Hiralal Chaudhuri and Dr. Arun Krishnsna and launched during the 7th Five Year Plan (1985-1990) during the sponsorship of the Fish Farmers Development Agency (FFDA) by the Central Government of India refers to the time of intense growth of the worldwide aquaculture industry from the mid-1960s to the present day. Since then, the aquaculture industry has been growing at an average rate of 9% a year and India is one of the fastest growers. Today, the Ministry of Fisheries is managing the objectives under the initiative – Blue Revolution.
Initiatives and Maritime Developments by Government
Sagarmala Project: The centrepiece of India’s push for the blue economy is the Sagarmala project launched in 2015, that includes constructing ports, augmenting coastal infrastructure, developing inland waterways, intensifying fishing, and creating special economic zones and tourism promotion.Sagarmala is a key to comprehensive port-led coastal development. To promote port-led industrialization, the Govt. has identified 12 major ports and 14 Coastal Employment Zones (CEZs) as part of the National Perspective Plan under the Sagarmala program.
India has an umbrella scheme by the name of O-SMART which aims at regulated use of oceans, marine resources for sustainable development.Integrated Coastal Zone Management focuses on conservation of coastal and marine resources, and improving livelihood opportunities for coastal communities etc.Development of Coastal Economic Zones (CEZ) under Sagarmala would become a microcosm of the blue economy, wherein industries and townships that depend on the sea will contribute to global trade.
The Blue economy presents India with an unprecedented opportunity to meet its national socio-economic objectives as well as strengthen connectivity with neighbors and helps in focusing on livelihood generation, achieving energy security, building ecological resilience, and improving health and living standards of coastal communities. Blue economy is reinforcing and strengthening the efforts of the Indian government as it strives to achieve the SDGs along with sustainable use of marine resources by 2030.
Macro and Collaborative Approach: SAGAR Policy
The protection of the world’s oceans is a global challenge and each country – even a landlocked one – has to contribute towards finding solutions to this issue. The concept of Blue Economy is certainly well equipped to tackle this global challenge by providing a unique and highly relevant approach which combines economic aspects with maritime sustainability.
At the Commissioning of Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) Barracuda in Mauritius, 2015 India’s Prime Minister observed, “To me the Blue chakra or wheel in India’s national flag represents the potential of the Blue Revolution or the Ocean Economy. That is how central the ocean economy is to us.” He endorsed Blue Economy as a new pillar of economic activity in the coastal areas and linked hinterlands through sustainable tapping of oceanic resources and announced his vision for the seas through “Security And Growth for All in the Region” (SAGAR). As the future lies in ‘blue diplomacy’, India’s ocean access and maritime know-how renders an opportunity to take a substantial lead in the seabed platform.
Maritime-related production is an integral part of the Indian economy. While it is crucial for the Indian economy that this sector is promoted further in future, the Indian government has effectively recognized the importance of preserving oceans’ sensitive ecosystems and contributing as well as committing to a sustainable use of maritime resources. This is why India is envisaging its way to become one of the largest contributors to the “Blue Growth” as a part of the long term strategy to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors as a whole.
In conclusion, as this article is written for World Oceans Day it is important to recognize that the Blue Economy serves as a framework and policy for sustainable marine economic activities as well as new marine-based technologies. Today, at the core of the Blue Economy concept is the de-coupling of ocean economic development from environmental degradation. It is vital for nation states to acknowledge a subset of the entire ocean economy that has regenerative and restorative activities that have immense potential to enhance ocean ecosystems, including maritime security and creation of sustainable livelihoods.
Krishna Kataria is a Project Research Associate with the Maritime History Society. This article is part of the Society’s work in contemporary ocean issues of significance. She can be reached on [email protected]
In January 2014, the participants of Blue Economy Summit adopted the Abu Dhabi Declaration, which describes it as: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
The IORA’s Mauritius Declaration on Blue Economy of September 2015 defined it as: “The Blue Economy paradigm is founded on the ecosystem approach, including science-based conservation of marine resources and ecosystems, as a means to realise sustainable development.” It encouraged member-states to consider formulating measures for the development of Blue Economy in a sustainable manner.