Around 70% of the planet Earth is covered by water, including oceans, seas, and other water bodies. Water serves as a great source of livelihood, communication means, and a connection between trade and the economy. Sea trade is the oldest, most profitable, and most reliable means of connecting land, people, and goods. Almost 80% of world trade takes place via maritime communications. In modern times, the importance of operations at sea has regained its full potential. The term “blue economy” was first used by Gunter Pauli in his book “The Blue Economy: 10 Years, 100 Innovations, 100 Million Jobs”, which was released in 2010. The blue economy is defined as the sustainable use of marine resources for economic growth, improved living conditions, and job creation while maintaining the health of marine ecosystems.
Pakistan has approximately 1,050 km of coastline, a large Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of approximately 290,000 km2, and access to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. These rich marine resources offer great potential for the development of the country’s blue economy. The net value of the blue economy in the world is approximately US$1.5 trillion every year, making it the seventh-largest economy in the world. By 2030, it is estimated to double to $3 trillion. The total value of marine resources has been predicted at US$24 trillion, while Pakistan mainly focuses on fisheries, which bring in only US$450 million. It is time to assess the untapped potential of Pakistan’s blue economy and develop long-term implementation strategies to realize it. Hence, here are some of the opportunities and challenges Pakistan faces in tackling the blue economy.
In a variety of industries, including fisheries, aquaculture, offshore oil and gas, maritime transportation, shipbuilding, and tourism, Pakistan has significant potential for the growth of the blue economy. The geographic location of Gwadar is crucial for Pakistan to develop into a significant seaport state in the Asia-Pacific region.
The fisheries sector supports the livelihoods of almost 3 million people and contributes 1.1% of the GDP. The annual yield in Pakistan is just about 0.5 million tons, despite the country’s potential for 1.5 million tons of marine fisheries. Through the use of cutting-edge fishing methods, environmentally friendly aquaculture methods, and value addition, there is immense room for the sustainable development of marine fisheries.
Offshore oil and gas:
Pakistan has substantial offshore oil and gas reserves, and activities like exploration and production in these areas can have a big impact on the economy of the country. Recently, the Pakistani government put up for auction about 20 offshore exploration blocks in an effort to draw outside capital into the industry.
Pakistan is strategically situated in the hub of world trade, and the growth of the infrastructure for marine transportation can help the region’s economic activity. It is possible for the deep-sea port of Gwadar, which was built with Chinese support, to link the Middle East, South Asia, and Central Asia.
The growth of the shipbuilding sector in Pakistan can lead to job prospects, local industrial growth, and a decrease in the cost of imports. The Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC) and Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KSEW) are the two leading companies in the industry; however, there is a pressing need to draw in private capital and update the infrastructure.
Despite boasting some of the world’s most breathtaking beaches and coral reefs, Pakistan’s marine tourism potential is mostly unrealized. The construction of maritime tourism infrastructure, such as hotels, cruise ships, and dive shops, can boost the economy and offer job opportunities.
Although there is a dire need to formulate sustainable policies to utilize the untapped potential of the blue economy in Pakistan, there are enormous challenges that create hurdles in the way of development.
Unregulated industrial waste and sewage discharge into the ocean, overfishing, and deteriorating fishing techniques have all contributed to the decline of marine ecosystems, which has an impact on coastal communities’ livelihoods and biodiversity.
Lack of infrastructure:
The growth of Pakistan’s blue economy is being hampered by the absence of essential infrastructure, including ports, harbors, and jetties. Modernizing the outdated infrastructure is necessary.
Limited institutional capacity:
Government organizations responsible for promoting the blue economy have limited institutional capacity, and there is a dearth of coordination between several organizations.
Lack of investment:
The blue economy industry faces significant roadblocks hindering development due to a lack of investment. Due to the lack of incentives, administrative barriers, and security issues, the private sector is reluctant to invest.
Pakistan has vast potential for the development of the blue economy, which can significantly contribute to the national economy as a way out of huge financial debts. In the current economic situation, it is evident that traditional methods are not helping significantly. Therefore, Pakistan must overcome the challenges and avail the opportunities that the blue economy can provide by developing sustainable policies on a priority basis.