Blue Economy and Indian Coast Guard
The contemporary maritime and marine discourse has placed Blue Economy high on the national agenda of a number of countries and several governments have endorsed the concept and stated their intention to promote sustainable use of the oceans for economic purposes. There is also a growing awareness among the users of the oceans about the critical necessity to ensure a good health for the oceans and a ‘tinge of blue’ is quite evident in new national ocean strategies and policies.
Similarly, nations are committed to work towards the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 in which Goal 14 titled “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development” and the sub-goals address marine pollution, sustainable management and protection of marine and coastal ecosystems, understand the impacts of ocean acidification, overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, etc. These sub-goals not only help to ensure the health of the oceans but also contribute to the sustainable use of the resources for economic growth and human well-being.
It is important to mention that Goal 17 is also linked to other SDG Goals such as SDG 1 (poverty), SDG 2 (food security), SDG 6 (water and sanitation), SDG 7 (energy), SDG 8 (economic growth), SDG 9 (infrastructure), SDG 10 (reduction of inequality), SDG 11 (cities and human settlements), SDG 12 (sustainable consumption and production), SDG 13 (on
climate change), SDG 15 (biodiversity), and SDG 17 (means of implementation and partnerships).
According to the United Nations, the commercial value of various activities in the world’s oceans is estimated to be between US $3 trillion to US $6 trillion and is accrued from services and resources such as marine transport (90 per cent of global trade moves over the seas), global telecommunications (submarine cables carry 95 per cent of all digital data across the globe), source of food (fisheries and aquaculture feed 4.3 billion people with more than 15 per cent of annual consumption of animal protein), oil and gas (over 30 per cent is produced from offshore), marine tourism (5 per cent of the global gross domestic product (GDP) and 6 to 7 per cent of global employment), shore based commercial activity (13 of the world’s top 20 megacities and over 40 per cent, or 3.1 billion, of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometers of the ocean or sea in about 150 coastal cities located along the coast and island nations). Besides, the oceans provide pharmaceuticals and sea vegetation as food production, and emerging sources of energy such as tides, waves, currents, and offshore wind. Given the economic potential, a number of countries are investing enormous fiscal, technological and human capital to develop maritime economies and are marshaling in their unique strengths.
Definition of Blue Economy
Blue Economy refers to a sustainable ocean-based economic model and employs environmentally-sound infrastructure, technologies and practices that support sustainable development. However, the idea of Blue Economy was first propounded in 2010 by Gunter Pauli who published a book ‘The Blue Economy: 10 years – 100 innovations – 100 million jobs’ where he argued that the focus should shift from identifying the problems to finding solutions. But in 2012, during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) in Rio de Janeiro, (also called as ‘Rio +20’), the participating countries agreed to advance the concept of Green Economy for ‘sustainable development and poverty eradication’. The island states questioned the relevance and applicability of Green Economy, which led them to argue that ‘the world’s Oceans and Seas require more in-depth attention and coordinated action’. Meanwhile, the UN expanded the mandate of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and began to address sea spaces beyond national jurisdiction and called for an ‘intergovernmental conference aimed at drafting a legally binding treaty to conserve marine life and govern the mostly lawless high seas beyond national jurisdiction’.
Securitization of Blue Economy
There is a symbiotic relationship between Blue Economy and Security. The 1982 UNCLOS III establishes a comprehensive framework for the regulation and management of the ocean space and addresses a broad spectrum of issues relating to regulation of navigation, marine protection, scientific research and seabed mining. Coastal states have accrued expansive sea spaces, designated as Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) under the UNCLOS III, and these have the promise of enormous living and non-living sea wealth. This sea space also provides for sovereign ownership for commercial activity in the EEZ, be it to catch fish, recover any oil and gas in the area, or mine or extract other marine resources. Although the UNCLOS III regime may have brought about ‘order at sea’ in terms of management of the sea spaces and resources, it has generated tensions among states, particularly when states declare national jurisdiction over deputed sea spaces, begin to exercise sovereignty and exploit resources.
In order to tackle many of these challenges, maritime law enforcement agencies have been mandated to ensure safety and security of economic assets and activities such as offshore oil platforms, protection of marine wealth, prevent illegal fishing and help uphold national environmental regulations thereby ensuring sustainable economic, livelihoods of coastal populations as also uphold national commitments to international agreements and initiatives such as the SDG 2030.
At another level, there is proliferation of maritime security strategies. For instance, China, India, Japan, Korea and several Asian states have endorsed Blue Economy and these have identified the role of maritime and law enforcement agencies in the development of the Blue economy. Likewise, the African Union, the UK as well as the EU have developed maritime security strategies and see the role of maritime law enforcement agencies for the protection of Blue economy. India is helping smaller island states such as Mauritius and Seychelles and the EU is meanwhile investing into maritime capacity building and security sector reform in Africa.
It is fair to argue that in the coming decades, Blue Economy will be increasingly securitized. It is therefore important to put national maritime security strategies in the context of the global nature of ocean realities and challenges which requires problem solving and new theoretical and practical approaches. At the same time, it is important to balance and mange different maritime interests and strategies and resource and environmental arguments. For instance, it is incomprehensible to think of resource and environmental compulsions without maritime safety and security. For instance, in Bangladesh Prime Minister has called for strengthening the Bangladesh Navy and Bangladesh Coast Guard to ensure protecting resources in the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf.
Likewise, the Indian government has endorsed Blue Economy and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has on a number of occasions at the national and international levels promoted the idea. Speaking at the International Fleet Review at Visakhapatnam, he observed that the “blue Chakra, the wheel in our national flag, represents the potential of the blue economy. An essential part of this pursuit is the development of India’s coastal and island territories but not just for tourism…We want to build new pillars of economic activity in the coastal areas and in linked hinterlands through sustainable tapping of oceanic resources,” Further, Prime Minister Modi has also announced his vision for the seas through ‘sagar’, which means ocean and stands for Security and Growth for All in the Region.
Blue Economy and Indian Coast Guard
During the last few years, particularly after the 2008 Mumbai terrors attacks, the focus of the Indian Coast Guard has majorly shifted to coastal security with emphasis on surveillance, intelligence and information collection, collation and dissemination among a number of stakeholders to ensure an effective response to any security crisis at sea. A sophisticated Coastal Surveillance Network (CSN) built around Static Sensors having Radars, Automatic Identification System (AIS), Day/Night Cameras and Met Sensors at 46 locations along the coastline and Islands has been established by the Indian Coast Guard.
The 1978 Indian Coast Guard Act Chapter III “Duties and Functions of the Coast Guard” section 14(1)enunciates that the Force should ensure safety and protection of offshore infrastructure in India’s maritime zone; preserve and protect the maritime environment; prevent and control marine pollution; protect fisheries, and help collect scientific data. The mission statement of the ICG clearly defines the relationship between the force and the sea based fish industry. At the primary level, ICG is required to prevent illegal fishing and poaching by foreign vessels. In the past, the ICG has intercepted several fishing vessels from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan and several Southeast Asian countries illegally fishing in the Indian EEZ particularly in the sea areas off Gujarat coast in the Arabian Sea and around Andaman & Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal.
Environmental protection is a statutory function of the ICG. It is the national agency for ensuring marine environment security in India’s sea areas. The force identifies its role through (a) Protection of marine environment, (b) Preservation of marine environment, (c) Prevention of marine pollution, and (d) Control of marine pollution. It is India’s nodal agency in the meetings of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The ICG engages in combating oil spill at sea and marine pollution control exercises regularly as also impart training to interested agencies.
ICG’s role in the protection of marine ecology is noteworthy. Its services have been sought by the conservationists for the protection for Dugongs, Whale Sharks, Sea Cucumber, Olive Ridley Turtles, Giant Clams and other species identified for special protection under various programmes. As part of its charter, the ICG has engaged in Operation Olive for the protection of turtles. The operation aims to protect the endangered species of Olive Ridley turtles during nesting time. ICG ships and aircraft are deployed for patrolling along the Orissa Coast.
The Indian Coast Guards mandate spans a number of sectors of the Blue Economy and can effectively support the national ocean development strategy particularly in the domains of environment, marine pollution, fisheries, and scientific data collection. It can also support the national plans for Sustainable Development Goals 2030 in which Goal 14 is related to the oceans.
The scope of Blue Economy is very wide and the need for a supra agency overseeing the its growth and development as also support sustainable development of marine resources is extremely important. Although there are several government agencies which have stakes in the maritime and marine affairs of India and thematically span into science, environment, ecology, conservation, resources (living and nonliving), technology, transport, security and human resource, Blue Economy is being developed on a sectoral basis.
As far as the ICG is concerned, it is empowered and mandated through the 1978 Indian Coast Guard Act to support the national vision of developing Blue Economy through environmental and ecology protection, prevent illegal fishing and ensure protection of resources through enhanced maritime surveillance and patrolling in the Exclusive Economic Zone.