The Maritime Opportunity
Pakistan must utilize its sea potential to boost the economy.
Pakistan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and extended continental shelf constitutes over 35% of its land and has a seafront of approx. 1000 kilometers. Nearly 90% of the country’s trade by volume and 70% by value is carried out through the sea yet the maritime sector has not been adequately exploited for optimal benefits and advantages. One important reason amongst many for this failure is that maritime issues are not high on the list or national strategic thinking in Pakistan.
The ocean is rich in living and nonliving resources and can generate wind, tidal, thermal and biomass energy. It is also a major source of food and an avenue for livelihood in fisheries, tourism, ports, shipping and shipbuilding. Pakistan’s exploration efforts in these areas for its economic development have been far from satisfactory. In recent times, economic activity in the maritime sector has been called the Blue Economy. The term was first mentioned by Gunter Pauli, a self-styled entrepreneur of Belgian origin, who published a book
By Taj M Khattak on the subject in 2010.
He juxtaposed the huge potential and benefits of the Blue Economy on those of the Green Economy; his ideas were considered so revolutionary at the time that he came to be known as the ‘Steve Jobs of sustainable development.‘ Since then there is a growing universal trend to pay more attention to world’s oceans and seas. Every country which has access to the sea has accelerated its efforts to harness maritime opportunities within the framework of the Blue Economy.
Although Pakistan has benefitted from the expanded mandate of UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and has acquired sovereign jurisdiction on the seabed beyond its EEZ, it is still lagging behind significantly in translating policy frameworks of a Blue Economy by such institutions as the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), Global Ocean Commission and the Global Partnership for Oceans. Further, in the region around us, a number of multilateral institutions like SAARC, APEC, East Asia Summit and IORA (Indian Ocean Rim Association) are engaged in developing cooperative strategies and action plans for sustainable development of marine resources.
All these bodies are constantly providing a new prominence to the oceans and seas. Their policy options and proposed models should be considered for new initiatives to build our national capacity. China has gone even further and initiated Five Year Development Plans for the National Marine Economy which monitors progress of various marine sectors on a regular basis.
Across the globe, the concept of Blue Economy is resonating in a number of countries and national agendas for post2015 development plans for sustainable development of resources and economic expansion are being worked around it. At the core of this concept lies the idea of ‘optimization of natural resources within ecological limits’ and ‘de-hyphenating socioeconomic development from environmental degradation.’
Pakistan appears more