Blue Economy: A Potential Opportunity for India

India's Blue Economy: Is It a Secured Future?

Dr Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Science and Technology, stated at a news conference that the Blue Economy based on ocean resources will be critical to India’s future. In response to a question in the Rajya Sabha, he further indicated that the Government of India’s Vision of New India by 2030, enunciated in February 2019, stresses “Blue” Economy as the sixth dimension of its vision.

The Minister also added that the Ministry of Earth Sciences has created a Draft Policy Document on Blue Economy based on the views of the Expert Working Groups, emphasising the comprehensive development and growth of India’s Blue Economy. It’s worth noting that India’s blue economy is a subset of the country’s economy that includes an extensive ocean resources system as well as human-made economic infrastructure in the country’s legal jurisdiction’s marine, maritime, and onshore coastal zones. Hence, it will assist in the production of goods and services that have evident economic, environmental, and national security implications.

As mentioned above, in this article, we will discuss about Blue Economy and how it will act as a subset of the national economy. This dynamic stance will boost India’s economy and also bring about a shift towards utilisation of marine resources to bring about a holistic growth that will be dealt with by focusing on the resources that will be excavated and utilised from the Indian Ocean. Lastly, a discussion about whether the Blue Economy will act as a secured future in delivering job opportunities, research and development, trade and commerce and international relations will be discussed.

Blue Economy: As a Concept

Professor Gunter Pauli of the United Nations University (UNU) first introduced the ‘Blue Economy’ as an economic concept in 1994 to reflect the needs of future growth and prosperity, as well as the concerns posed by global warming. Following the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development or Third Earth Summit Conference – Rio+20 in 2012, the Blue Economy became more important. The conference’s focus was on extending the Green Economy concept to the Blue Economy. As a guiding principle for global governance and use of ocean resources, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 14 seeks to “conserve and sustainably manage the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.” Hence several member countries have developed their own Blue Economy definitions and models.

The oceans are seen as “shared development zones” in the Blue Economy. The World Bank defines it as “the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihood and jobs, and the health of ocean ecosystems.” The notion, which has been referred to in the literature as “marine economy,” “coastal economy,” or “ocean economy,” is still in its inception and has yet to be contained in a full operational description. The Economist Intelligence Unit (2015) highlighted that the blue economy is equivalent to “greening of the ocean economy,” with futuristic development implications by visualising specific patterns of production and consumption of ocean resources while defining the concepts and goals of the Blue Economy. From this standpoint, the Blue Economy represents a departure from the previous “brown” business-as-usual development model, in which oceans are viewed as free resource extraction and trash disposal facility. This paradigm ignores the implications of negative externalities when it comes to resource accounting, neglecting the costs of environmental damage and ecological imbalance caused by consumption.

As a result, the increased competition among Indian Ocean Rim (IOR) countries for marine resources for development underscores the need for improved regional collaboration that allows them to use these resources in a more sustainable manner. The adoption of a clear definition of the Blue Economy is the first step toward better understanding and collaborative action to explore the existing potential of the Blue Economy in the IOR region. Because of the wide range of activities, geographical regions, and sectors covered, the concept of the blue economy is still open to interpretation.

Blue Economy potentials in the Indian Ocean

Blue Economy has now become a powerful and contentious notion in the Indian Ocean region, with member states of the primary regional governing organisation, the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), debating it. A number of IORA states have been vocal advocates for enhanced cooperation and better administration of the Blue Economy since its inception. Bangladesh, for example, has been in the forefront of regional efforts to promote Blue Economy, hosting the first major conference dedicated to proposing Bay of Bengal collaboration for Blue Economy in 2014. In 2015, IORA hosted a conference titled “Enhancing Blue Economy for Sustainable Development.” As a result of these efforts, the Indian Ocean area has placed a greater emphasis on sustainable development, and the IORA Declaration on Enhancing Blue Economy Cooperation for Sustainability has emerged. Hence, India’s strategic and development goal has shifted to include the Blue Economy. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi has described it as a tool for India’s development, emphasising the importance of preserving shared maritime regions for “regional security and growth.”

The concept of the Blue Economy, which straddles the principles of marine-led economic growth, environmental protection, and enhanced maritime security in all national and regional manifestations, is becoming increasingly clear that it will have profound implications on regional foreign policy in the coming decades. As a result, the term is especially relevant to the Indian Ocean, which is defined by “maritime regionalism” and pursues comparable geopolitical objectives. With nearly half of the world’s population expected to reside in IOR countries by 2050, the region is undergoing a geopolitical transformation from the ‘Ocean of the South’ to the ‘Ocean of the Centre,’ and then to the ‘Ocean of the Future,’ as its central role in global trade, industry, labour, environment, and security is set to shape the 21st century. Subsequently, from 861,000 tonnes in 1950 to 11.5 million tonnes in 2010, fish productivity in the Indian Ocean expanded dramatically. While other world oceans are nearing their fisheries limits, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) assessment argues that the Indian Ocean’s resources have the capacity to sustain additional output in specific places. Even the two mineral deposits in the Indian Ocean that developers are interested in are poly-metallic nodules and poly-metallic huge sulphides. Poly-metallic nodules are golf-to-tennis-ball-sized nodules containing nickel, cobalt, iron, and manganese that form over millions of years on the seafloor’s sediment. They are often found at four to five kilometres in water depth. This eventually shows the potential the Indian Ocean has in encouraging economies to have a sustainable utilisation of it.

For centuries, the Indian Ocean has provided a unique ecology and resource connecting pathways. The expansion of opportunity has been aided by advances in technology and capability. A sustained—and sustainable—growth of the Indian Ocean region’s blue economy would thus necessitate coordinated efforts by governments, the commercial sector, and the broader community, including scientists. In the last two decades, the number of preferential trade agreements has increased dramatically in terms of domestic consumption and commerce.

Expanded policy focus on the Blue Economy by Indian Ocean littoral governments would highlight the economic potential of shared marine resources and their ability to contribute to bigger development imperatives, including poverty reduction, food security, and increased economic possibilities. This realisation, however, must be followed by recognition of the need to draw economic development from marine resources while also assuring the conservation and long-term management of the marine ecosystem. In this setting, increased political and economic attention to the long-term management of maritime resources is critical to better governance and security for the region’s immense resources. Exploring existing legal and regulatory frameworks, particularly for food security and sustainable management, is therefore crucial in order to identify gaps and provide alternatives for improved governance in the region.

Blue Economy in India’s Perspective                    

India enjoys a distinct maritime situation. There are 9 coastal states and 1382 islands along the 7517-kilometer-long coastline. In 2019, the country’s 12 major ports and 187 minor ports handled 633.87 million tonnes of cargo. By volume, 95 % of India’s trade is transported by water. India’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which covers more than two million square kilometres and contains considerable recoverable crude oil and natural gas resources, is rich in both living and non-living resources. It has the potential to boost value addition in coastal manufacturing and services, trade, shipping, deep sea minerals, aquaculture, and fisheries, among other sectors, as well as technologies relating to the sea. Over 40 lakh fishermen and coastal communities have considerable populations that rely on the coastal economy. As a result, India’s huge marine interests are intertwined with the country’s economic development and national security. India’s Blue Economy is a subset of the country’s economy that includes the entire system of ocean resources and man-made economic infrastructure in India’s legal jurisdiction’s marine, maritime, and onshore coastal zones, which aid in the production of goods and services and have clear links to economic growth, environmental sustainability, and national security.

The Blue Economy was highlighted as one of the ten essential elements of economic growth in the Government of India’s Vision of New India by 2030, which was announced in February 2019. It was addressed as the sixth dimension of the Vision, emphasising the necessity for a coordinated policy. The draft policy focuses on policies in a variety of critical sectors in order to accomplish India’s economy’s holistic development. It focuses on seven thematic areas, including national accounting framework for the blue economy and ocean governance; coastal marine spatial planning and tourism; marine fisheries, aquaculture, and fish processing; manufacturing, emerging industries, trade, technology, services, and skill development; logistics, infrastructure, and shipping, including transshipment; coastal and deep-sea mining and offshore energy; security, strategic dimensions, and international cooperation; and security, strategic dimensions, and international cooperation.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Shipping’s ambitious Sagarmala project is a strategic drive for port-led development through the widespread use of IT-enabled services keeping in mind the developmental and security elements of Blue Info 1Economy like port modernization, connectivity, port linked industrialization and coastal community development. It focuses on port modernisation, effective evacuation, and coastal economic development to address the issue of underutilised ports. Over Rs. 3 lakh crores have been set aside by the government to support 199 projects under the Sagarmala scheme, which would be implemented over the next three years. Projects worth more than Rs. 1 lakh crore have already been implemented under these designated programmes. Furthermore, the Union Budget for 2017-18 boosted the project’s funding from Rs. 406 crores (RE 2016-17) to Rs. 600 crores (BE 2017-18), giving the port-led growth even more impetus.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), a premier national business organisation, has also played an important role in researching and sharing knowledge about the Blue Economy among its huge corporate membership and partners. This enhanced study and promotion have raised awareness of the Blue Economy in India, as well as its potential to harness both mature and emergent industries such as ports and shipping, fisheries and aquaculture, marine biotechnology, renewable energy, and deep-sea mining. India has initially planned to launch a National Placer Mission to look for viable resources and develop a strategy for extracting them. India will also play a key role in the exploration of the Indian Ocean’s cobalt-rich Sea Mount Ferro Manganese Crust (SFMC). Appropriate prospecting and mining policies, as well as an environmental impact audit, would be developed. India has committed to exploring the EEZ by 2023, and the deployment of a manned submersible vehicle capable of reaching the deepest ocean levels is planned, possibly in collaboration with other partners. With a focus on Blue Economy and Blue Research in higher technical education, India’s pool of technical and scientific workers would be bolstered even more.

In recent years, the Indian government has made a number of steps to fully realise the potential of the fisheries sector in a sustainable and responsible manner. The ‘Blue Revolution: Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries’ Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) was established in 2015-16 with a five-year budget of Rs 3000 crores. The ‘Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund’ (FIDF) was established in 2018-19 with a fund size of Rs. 7522.48 crores to provide concessional credit to state/UT governments, their entities, and the private sector to fill significant gaps in the fisheries infrastructure. Acknowledging the enormous potential in the fisheries sector, the Government of India launched a new flagship scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY), in May 2020, with the highest investment of Rs. 20,050 crores to bring about a Blue Revolution through the sustainable and responsible development of the country’s fisheries sector. PMMSY will be implemented in all States and UTs during a five-year term, from 2020-21 to 2024-25. As a result of these initiatives, India’s Fisheries sector has experienced impressive growth in recent years, with an average annual growth rate of around 10% (from 2014-15 to 2018-19). Fish production has increased by more than 7% on an annual basis, reaching an all-time high of 141.64 lakh metric tonnes in 2019-20. Despite the challenges the sector encountered during the Covid – 19 pandemic, India set all-time highs in marine product exports of US$ 7165 million from April to February 2021-22.

India’s Dynamism towards Ocean Governance

India is carefully picking international partners with common interests, demonstrated capabilities, and know-how in the Blue Economy for technology sharing, adaption, and transfer with long-term advantages. In this perspective, India progressed in identifying domains like the Seychelles-Singapore-Samoa (SSS) axis, which stretches from the East Coast of Africa to the Western Pacific Ocean. For increased goodwill and interdependence, India is willing to share its own strengths with other maritime partners and neighbours. This includes developing blue initiatives in the marine neighbourhood with the help of development partnerships.

In global strategy, the Indian Ocean has long had a prominent position. Many countries have deployed bases in the region in order to protect their strategic interests. During the Cold War, India was particularly engaged in the UN Adhoc Committee on the Indian Ocean, supporting the cause of retaining the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace. With the resurgence of piracy challenges and the increased need of protecting the oceanic ecosystem, India has been proactive in forming cooperation agreements with like-minded neighbours to envisage blue diplomacy giving impetus on maritime safety and security. One example is the “Trilateral Cooperative in Maritime Security” between India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.

Recently, India and France announced plans to make the blue economy a driving force for prosperity in their respective countries while also protecting the environment and marine biodiversity. Both countries want to info2contribute to scientific understanding and ocean conservation, ensuring that the ocean remains a global common, a free and open place governed by the rule of law. Both the nations want to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14. They pledged their support for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). In addition, in 2018, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Ministry of Ecological Transition (MTE) and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), resulting in the formation of an environmental working group that addresses pressing issues such as climate change, air quality, protected areas, and biodiversity, among others. Without affecting the scope of the aforementioned discussion and working group, India and France want to establish a new area of cooperation on the blue economy and ocean governance.

India’s Blue Economy: Is It a Secured Future?

Oceans will become new economic centres in this era of advanced technologies. Shipping, offshore oil and gas, fishing, undersea cables, and tourism all rely heavily on the ocean. Other growing businesses with the potential to provide jobs and stimulate global economic growth include aquaculture, marine biotechnology, ocean energy, and sea-bed mining. As per the draft policy, it intends to greatly increase the Blue Economy’s contribution to India’s GDP in the years ahead, which will improve the lives of coastal residents, protect our marine biodiversity, and safeguard the security of our maritime areas and resources. The Blue Economy has the potential to be the next multiplier of economic growth and well-being if the strategy prioritises sustainability and socio-economic welfare.

With new and rising industries such as various types of energy generation, Ocean Thermal Energy Conservation (OTEC), marine biology, and biotechnology, the blue economy is expanding as it has never been before. The offshore wind energy business is the most developed of all the renewable energy sources supplied by oceans. Lack of skills and training, technological assistance, and investment, among other things, have all contributed to their poor growth. In 2019, the Union Minister of State for Power, New & Renewable Energy (IC), and Skill Development & Entrepreneurship approved and declared ocean energy as Renewable Energy to help them flourish in India. However, more effort is needed to fully realise the sector’s potential in terms of output and generating employment.

With the growing influence of climate change on marine ecosystems, marine biologists are becoming increasingly crucial in addressing many of these challenges. Their work includes everything from assisting offshore oil and gas firms in reducing the detrimental impact of their operations on marine life to establishing designated marine reserves and artificial reefs/wrecks in order to attract marine biodiversity to a specific location. Another expanding field is marine biotechnology, which focuses on researching and developing technical applications of living marine creatures, their derivatives, and bioprocesses. As a result, this industry is in the initial phases of development, and, like many other new and rising industries, it will require both financial and technological support, as well as skill development to fulfil future demands.

Finally, India’s blue economy’s survival and expansion will always be greatly reliant on the safety and security provided on the high seas. In today’s geopolitical environment, a nation’s sovereignty is inextricably linked to the blue economy’s security. Technological advancements will be the way forward in achieving security over the wide-open oceans. These innovations could take the shape of small incremental improvements within the marine industry or a significant disruptive revolution brought on by land-based technical changes. As a result, India’s determination to increase its cooperation with regional partners and establish a sustainable ocean economy aligns well with its domestic mega-modernization projects, allowing the country to fully realise the potential of the ocean-based Blue Economy while also securing its future


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