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OP-ED: Blue economy: Unleashing Bay of Bengal’s potential

  • Published at 09:57 pm August 5th, 2021
blue economy
Representational photo

The maritime economy continues to contribute to the world economy in many ways

It is widely known that three parts of earth are water and one part is land.

Ninety percent of the world's commercial activities are also run by sea.

The maritime economy continues to contribute to the world economy in many ways.

Every year, activities worth $3-5 trillion are taking place around the sea. 

Marine fish, plants and animals provide 15% of the protein to the world's 4.3 billion people.

Thirty percent of the world's total gas and fuel oil is supplied from oceans & seas. 

According to statistics, the world's population will be around 900 crore by 2050. There is no alternative to the sea to feed this huge population.

To that end, the blue economy has been at the heart of the UN's sustainable development program since 2015, and the core of the blue economy is sustainable maritime policy.

Bangladesh has vast maritime boundaries bestowed with hidden oil, gas and various natural resources. 

What natural resources do we have in our seas? What should we do about it? What have we done so far after resolving the maritime dispute?

Let's discuss the maritime boundaries of Bangladesh and its possibilities.

Enter Bangladesh

After the settlement of maritime disputes with Myanmar in 2012 and with India in 2014, Bangladesh now owns a maritime area of more than 1, 16,713 sq km, 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone and Chittagong coast.

From 354 nautical miles to the continental shelf, we have sovereign rights over all kinds of animal and non-animal resources.

Its size is almost equal to another Bangladesh.

Within this vast water body, the immense potential of Bangladesh's blue economy lies. Other countries of the world surrounded by the sea coast have changed their economy by utilizing marine resources.

The lion's share of Indonesia's national economy depends on the sea.

In recent times, the country has taken steps to ensure that, if fully implemented, the value of resources extracted from the sea would be ten times the national budget. (Indonesia is an archipelagic state with 16,506 islands).

Australia, on the other hand, currently earns about $44 billion from maritime resources.

By 2025, their revenue target has been set at $100 billion.

According to an article in The Jakarta Post, The Lombok Blue Economy Implementation Program will generate 6,600 new jobs and $114.7 million annually.

Bangladesh is yet to discover its scattered resources in the Bay of Bengal.

Neighbours India and Myanmar have discovered oil and gas in the eastern and western parts of Bangladesh's seas, which geologists say is likely to be found by Bangladesh as well.

International marine resource researchers have identified the Bay of Bengal as a mine of various resources.

Many people think that the mineral resources at the bottom of the Bay of Bengal are not found in any other sea or bay in the world.

Many more years ago, the Bay of Bengal was named 'Ratnakagar' after the mythology of India, assuming that there are various precious gems including gems, pearls, gold, silver, copper and coral.

Although, like the developed countries, we could not identify the amount of natural resources in the Bay of Bengal, some studies have shown that oil, gas, limestone, monazite, which is most valuable substances is radioactive material used to make atomic bombs and to generate energy in nuclear reactors and thousands of minerals including the rare metal uranium, the raw material of the cement industry, thorium and ore.


There are also 4 large fisheries in the Bay of Bengal.

Researchers also believe that there are about 440 species of marine fishes, 337 species of snails and oysters, 36 species of shrimp, 3 species of whales, 10 species of dolphins, and about 200 species of seaweed.

This grass and weed is known as a delicacy to China, Japan and Europeans.

But it is a matter of regret that at present the fishermen of Bangladesh can go only 20 to 50 kilometres to catch fish.

In other words, a large part of the bay is unknown to the fishermen of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh does not have any fishing boat to go more than 50 kilometres. This problem needs urgent solving. 

Experts say that the sea resources of the Bay of Bengal can give Bangladesh energy security in future, as well as change the overall condition of the economy.

Proper use of animal and non-animal resources at sea can easily take GDP into double digits.

It is even possible to earn a lot of foreign exchange by exporting seafood and nutrients abroad after meeting the domestic demand.

On the other hand, employment for the huge population of the country can be provided thanks to the bay dependent economy. 

The reality is our neighbors India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar have been working on the blue economy for a long time.

But we have lagged far behind in this regard, even after 5 years of rejoicing on the billboards and in the media, we have not been able to do anything worth mentioning.

But bay governance is not easy at all.

Exploration, mining and extraction of mineral resources are all technical matters. If we want today, tomorrow we may start extracting marine resources tomorrow, but not. This requires efficient planning. But we have enough of this efficient plan.

Although the much-desired 'Multidimensional Survey of Marine Resources' was supposed to start in 2014, yet, it has not seen the light of day.

If this survey was conducted, at least we would not have to speculate. We could easily attract foreigners to invest by showing the survey results. 

However, hope rays since a regular faculty has been opened at Dhaka University for marine research.

The Institute of Marine Research has been established at Chittagong University.

In 2013, it became a separate government university with maritime, which is the 1st in Bangladesh and the 3rd in South Asia.

The Blue Economy Cell was formed in 2014. All these are positive and realistic initiatives.


In addition to the above academic activities, it is very important to quickly formulate short, medium and long term plans and to complete the multidimensional survey of marine resources as soon as possible.

If necessary, we may get cooperation of foreign skilled companies.

To formulate a maritime policy and to utilize the maritime economy, we should review the steps of successful countries like Indonesia and Australia.

We also need the cooperation of Bangladeshis abroad who are showing their skills in research and work in this sector and to bring them back to the country to unleash their potential.

Adequate budgeting and building a strong maritime Authority is therefore a crying need.

It also calls for setting up separate research centers and attracting domestic & foreign investors in various ways through seminars and symposiums.

Most importantly, there are many countries in the world that do not have maritime borders, yet they dominate the higher ranks in maritime economy.

By the infinite mercy of the Creator we have found the bay which has infinite possibilities. Utilizing this immense potential, we can become a self-reliant and rich state.



The writer is a student of economics at the University of Dhaka. He can be reached at [email protected]

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