One-third of planet earth is land and the remaining two-thirds is water. Mankind has habitually exploited nature to serve its own ends. As the human population is rapidly increasing, the available land remains the same which has led to immense pressure on its resources. The population growth and resultant consumption of natural resources have exceeded the regenerative capacities of natural systems. The human pattern and practices of using land have irreparably diminished natural resources. The ocean is one of Earth’s most valuable natural resources. Mankind exploits the ocean to meet his energy, food, recreational, military, and other needs. Oceans are used for transportation-both travel and shipping. Today around 80% of world trade is seaborne. As the volume of global trade increases, predictions are that global commercial vessel traffic is expected to double or treble in the next 20 years.
Maritime Governance and Blue Economy
With its geographic and geostrategic position in and critical dependence on the Indian Ocean, India has been leading the Blue Economy discourse at the highest level of the Government, with a greater focus on the Indian Ocean region. The essence of this approach was spelled out by Government for seeking “Security And Growth for All in the Region" (SAGAR).
The Indian Ocean is vital to the economies, security, and livelihoods of its littoral states. India is focussing on overall maritime governance including economies based on marine resources assured, advancing the blue economy through sustainable management and utilisation of the ocean’s resources, food security, and livelihoods for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The current governance framework of marine resource management in the Indian Ocean explores the challenges in Blue Economy development to ensure sustainable development in the region. Maritime security is essential to ensure a holistic approach toward the governance, use, and maintenance of Oceans.
Concept of Blue Economy
The Blue Economy encompasses a wide range of economic activities pertaining to the sustainable development of resources and assets in the oceans, related rivers, water bodies, and coastal regions - in a manner that ensures equity, inclusion, innovation, and modem technology. Subtly distinguishable from the Ocean Economy" in terms of nuance and emphasis, the Blue Economy is a newer and more contemporary term, popular with Small Island Developing States (SIDS) as well as international organisations, media, experts, and governments in a growing number of countries. The Blue Economy is viewed as an integral element of Sustainable Development Goals.
Why focus on Blue Economy?
It would, as Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) points e out, contribute to food security, poverty alleviation, the mitigation of and resilience to the impacts of climate change, enhanced trade and investment, enhanced maritime connectivity, enhanced diversification, job creation, and socio-economic growth.” From the business perspective, Blue Economy requires innovative and dynamic business models forming business connections between India and other relevant countries, especially those located in the Indian Ocean region.
Overview of India’s Blue Economy
The Blue Economy of India is a subdivision of the national economy that includes the complete ocean resources system as well as humanmade economic infrastructure in the country’s legal jurisdiction marine, maritime, and onshore coastal zones. India’s Blue Economy concept is multi-faceted and plays an important role in the country’s economic growth because of its enormous maritime interests. It accounts for roughly 4% of the GDP and is estimated to increase once the mechanism is improved. The sector has stood strong despite the challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and has recorded exports worth US$ 7.2 billion between April 2021- February 2022.
The Indian Ocean’s Blue Economy has become a global economic corridor. It is the world’s third-largest body of water, covering 68.5 million square km and rich in oil and mineral resources, and countries around the ocean’s periphery are home to about one-third of humanity. India has significant diplomatic interests in the Indo-Pacific, as well as international commitments in the region under the UNCLOS, such as Search and Rescue, seabed mining, and counter-piracy.
India has a 7517 km coastline, 1197 islands, and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) spanning 2.01 million sq km, which is expected to go up to almost 3 million sq km after the delimitation of the continental shelf. India is strategically located between two important choke points namely the Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca, through which most of the trade in commercial shipping moves in the Indian Ocean. These straits and rim of the Indian Ocean are laced with a large number of countries from four continents-Asia, Africa, Australia, and Antarctica. It is a large mass of water that has deep-lying resources and dense traffic. The traffic of hazardous and noxious substances for industrial and energy purposes is constantly increasing. Many of the nations in the rim have political problems and regional stability is therefore only transitory. Piracy and other transnational crimes are rampant and ongoing almost daily. Such crimes support militant activism and homemade insurgencies. Considering the future of the exploitation of ocean resources in the IOR, the Indian Coast Guard will have a major role to play.
In pursuit of the SDGs of Blue Economy, revolutions in maritime transportation and information systems, growth of ports and shipping, mineral research and exploitation, emerging threats to the marine environment, and changing national security concerns will shape the course of the Nation. More than ever, India will call upon the Coast Guard to protect lives and serve the national interests on the high seas, along the Nation’s maritime borders and coasts.
Mindful of these responsibilities, the ICG has charted its course and embarked on an ambitious plan to renew assets and increase capabilities, by matching its high-performing people with modem equipment and technologies, the Indian Coast Guard will remain always ready to meet the challenges ahead.