Blue economy: an unexplored heaven!

Hassnain Javed

January 31, 2019



Blue economy is the efficient use of sustainable ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihood, jobs and ocean ecosystem. The concept is relatively new, it talks about the stewardship of the world’s blue resources and oceans. The idea goes beyond just utilizing marketing opportunities alone. In fact, the blue economy is a mechanism for securing and providing more intangible blue resources by carbon sequestration, and coastal resilience to facilitate and educate developing nations or ‘Big Ocean States,’as the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) sometimes call themselves. These SIDs are mostly dependant on marine life and diesel economy to survive and thus are the worst-hit by climate change and sea-level rise.

According to the 2018, report of the Commonwealth, the worldwide ocean economy is valued at a total of US$1.5 trillion per year. It is estimated, that by 2025, thirty-four percent of the total crude oil production in the world would come from offshore field. Currently, the World Bank estimates that eighty percent of the global trade is carried via sea routes and aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector. Moreover, approximately 350 million jobs world-wide are linked to fisheries. The concept of ‘Blue economy’ is very similar to the green economy, as it aids in the wellbeing of humans, social equity as well as concern for environmental degradation and scarcity of natural resources.

The downturn in Pakistan’s economy is steepening with the trade deficit rising to approximately 371.6 Billion in November 2018 from 246 Billion in the corresponding month last year. Although the exports have improved to 18.7 percent but the effect is marred by a jump in imports to 23.2 percent from the last fiscal year. Many debates have surfaced, regarding the worsening condition of the economy, since the Pakistani rupee has devalued against the US dollar. According to World Bank the inflation in Pakistan is expected to remain high till the fiscal year 2020. In such times of instability in the economy, adopting blue economy can reap unsurmountable benefits to Pakistan. A major opportunity lies in the forward plans of China to built oceans-based passages as a part of its Belt and Road Initiative. As a major recipient of this initiative under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, Pakistan can capitalise on the maritime cooperation and mutually promote beneficial “blue partnerships” and forge a “blue engine” for the growth of this region. According to the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in May, three blue economic passages are already under way, including ‘China-Indian Ocean-Africa-Mediterranean Sea blue economic passage, will run westward via the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean, and link with the China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor, and connect with the China-Pakistan, and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridors.

Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar- Minister for Planning, Development and Reform, said that CPEC project will facilitate socioeconomic development and poverty alleviation programs in the Gwadar region. Therefore, the subject was the topic of major discussions in Prime Minister, Imran khan’s recent visit to China. The creation of Gwadar would help Pakistan capitalize on its potential in building a blue economy. The government has planned new infrastructure projects like the New Gwadar International Airport, a vocational center, China-Pakistan Friendship Hospital and a host of socio economic uplift projects. Additionally, a smart city program by the name Gwadar Smart Port City is ready to set its course for transforming Gwadar, in a well-planned urban city. However, in order to fully transform Gwadar, into a sustainable blue economy more effort is needed in activities like fisheries, maritime transport, renewable energy and waste management.

One such opportunity underlying the concepts of Blue Economy sector is the sustainable harvesting of the living food resources, marine biotechnology and generation of fresh water beds, all of which requires a heavy amounts of investment. Along with fish farming techniques, an efficient shipping industry is essential for the safe, cheap and quick transport of goods. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), has launched a concept of Sustainable Maritime Transports which provides the building blocks of efficient and environmentally friendly techniques to develop the necessary infrastructure.

As stated earlier a concept of energy transition for SIDs can be revolutionary for Pakistan since they can play a vital role in reducing carbon emissions and pollution. Also considering the energy shortages in Pakistan, the fishing units would require large amounts of freezing units to store and transport the items. Therefore, green economy concepts would allow a development framework that would allow biodiversity and other ecosystem services. Some of the major blue energy resources are from the wind, wave, tidal, ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) and salinity gradients and biomass sources. However, offshore wind could be a major resource, generating approximately 6GW in 2012, with a possible rise to 175 GW by 2035.

As far as the solid waste is concerned the Waste to Energy (WTE) seems to be the most popular option for recycling, applied in 93.2 percent of the cases and biological treatment 6.8 percent. Composting, which is although the most cheapest organic method, is not feasible at a large scale. The reason why this method is particularly cheap is because composting produces an organic by product of a fertilizer that can be sold or used for residential or commercial purposes. Highly chemical or toxic solid mass like the wastes from hospitals has to be treated in an incineration plant before it can be dumped in landfills. However, the process is very costly with a price tag on average of $125/ton. Studies around the world prove that 95 percent of all solid waste could be recycled one or another way as mentioned above. Moreover, as compared to burning wastes, innovations which shape blue economy would provide thousands of jobs in Pakistan and revenue along the process, without compromising the environment.

Another golden opportunity for Pakistan lies in the concept of branded waste which is gaining attention around the world. For example, chip bags from Frito Lay are recycled into garbage cans and beverage coolers. Previously, companies used to hide their names from waste or recycled products but now it is a major social marketing highlight for big multinationals. Similarly, Pakistani companies can also dwell on the idea and utilize their resources to reduce costs and contribute towards the goal of a sustainable and green Pakistan.