Delta Plan 2100
Blue economy approaches for coastal areas
The honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina mentioned that "The Bangladesh Delta Plan (BDP) 2100 is the plan moving Bangladesh forward for the next 100 years. The government approved long term 'Delta Plan 2100' to secure future water resources, as well to integrate climate change adaptation, engineering and food security. Of the six hot spots- 'Coastal zone' is a major one- covering 27,738 sq km in Southern coastal belts of 19 districts.
The effect of climate change is much pronounced in coastal areas. Natural disasters, cyclones, salinity intrusion and climate change, maritime safety and security are great challenges. However, Dalta Plan 2100 emphasized to reduce environmental risks and to promote ocean based 'blue economy' and green energy'.
The blue economy is "sustainable exploitation and utilization of marine resources" for the welfare of mankind. Large marine resources of Bangladesh remain unexplored--that might be utilized in a best possible ways. The blue economy offers many prospects via: sea ports, fishing and oil-gas-mineral resources for growth and employment etc. Blue Economy is considered as new possibilities through tapping huge potentials of sea resources.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina emphasized, the marine-based economic activities and management of sea resources through "Blue Economy". With the settlement of maritime boundaries between the India-Bangladesh-Myanmar, now Bangladesh could have a maritime area within 200 nm and the continental shelf beyond 200 nm. These huge maritime boundaries open the greatest opportunities for extraction of maritime resources.
Huge areas in the offshore blocks are being used for explorations of natural gas-oil by selected foreign companies. National Exploration Company BAPEX has initiated to start surveys in sea blocks. The valuable minerals such as copper, manganese, cobalt, and zinc deposits on seabed- could be mined using hydraulic pumps systems. BAPEX could utilize - ship or mining platform with drills to extract minerals from ocean bed. Minerals such as zircon, garnet, and magnetite could be explored from beach sands.
The huge opportunities in the Bay of Bengal could be utilized by Bangladesh being connected with a corridor of China's Maritime Silk Road through the Indian Ocean. China invested for constructing 'Payra deep sea port' at Patuakhali under Chinese trading relations. China is also interested to finance for proposed Sonadia deep sea port near Cox's Bazar.
Chattogram and Mongla ports handles large number of ships, but are too shallow for heavy ships. We need deep sea ports, especially proposed Sonadia deep sea port near Cox's Bazar. Matarbari deep sea port has already been planned to build near Cox's Bazar. The railway, road and river transport from Dhaka to coastal ports could be emphasized. National roads- highways and feeder roads must be improved for exploring benefits from blue economy.
Recent years, export based ship-building industries have emerged involving 200 ship-building companies. All inland ships, offshore vessels and fishing trawlers are building inside the country. There will be a huge demand for Bangladesh made cargo-ships in the competitive International market. The government could have a policy for long term loans in this sector. Further, ship recycling industry could be turned into a modern industry through constructing eco-friendly infrastructures.
'The sea port' has facilitated trade between various regions of the world. There are many advantages by constructing export oriented industrial parks near the sea ports. If the industry is near to the sea port- it reduces transportation costs. Modern salt processing mills, agro based food processing, hybrid seeds, agro and heavy machineries industries could be established in 'protected coastal industrial zones' by the local companies.
For joint venture foreign investment- the government could build at least 10 large exports oriented coastal industrial zones near Chattogram, Payra and Mongla ports, as well as near to Matarbari and proposed Sonadia deep sea ports. The government could build a business friendly environment in the country for investment in pharmaceutical, manufacturing, garments, textile and IT software sectors.
Oceanography is the study of subjects related to the ocean; an example is the study- how waves are formed, could be useful for hydro-electricity generation. Basic research on diverse disciplines of oceanography is needed to understand "marine biology, chemical oceanography, marine geology and physical oceanography". 'Multi-dimensional surveys of marine resources, conservation of biodiversity and protection of critical habitats' are priority sectors. Determination of marine pollution by assessing seasonal seawater quality is also important.
Marine aquatic products other than fish for human consumption are - seaweed, algae, crab and other animals etc. Farm cultivation of aquatic plants and algae is still new, farming of aquatic animals in 3 sub-sectors farming: marine shellfish (mussels), marine finfish and freshwater (carp, eel) could be emphasized. Emphasis should be given to collect seaweeds as food, and to create protective belt for dolphin and other marine animals. Dried sea weed biomass could be used in industries as fuel.
Marine biotechnology has potentialities to food, human health, feed and chemical industries- towards production of metabolites and primary compounds (sugars, proteins), as well for developing new antibiotics and for utilizing marine bacteria as drugs. Bio-technological tools include gene cloning, transformation and production of transgenic marine organisms. Bio-prospecting is a process that might be applied for searching new plant and animal species having unique properties- from which medicinal drugs and valuable compounds could be extracted.
Marine fisheries is a major source of domestic food, export oriented income and employment. The flow of capital investment is important for strengthening a "sustainable marine fisheries system". The traditional methods of fishing should be replaced with advanced technology. Capacity building in Marine Fisheries sector must be emphasized. In ghar areas of Khulna region- scientific shrimp culture techniques could be adapted.
The discovery of new fishing grounds and expending both shallow and deep sea fishing by using sophisticated fishing boats and merchant ships are important. Introduction of modern technologies for fishing are needed. The Meghna estuary at Chandpur is the largest estuarine ecosystem and support diverse fisheries communities. Research should be carried out to assess the fish diversity status.
The sands after separation are valuable in construction industries. The dredged materials and sand from sea beds are also valuable for re-use in land reclamation. There are large volumes of sand/sediment and char lands in our river systems. A suction hopper type dredger suck sand/mud from bottom of river and could be pumped using pipes on nearby land- over the time sand is deposited. Research is needed- how to use dredged materials/sands for constructing dike, dam and land reclamation.
An environmental friendly coastal agricultural policy could be built-up involving public and private stakeholders- emphasizing climate resilient high-yielding variety development, crop diversification, modern rice cultivation (BRRI dhan78) as well emphasizing export oriented quality agro-products. Fisheries policy of government for coastal and inland waters should aim at sustainable management of fish stocks and developing a partnership for expending export oriented processed and dry fish.
'The Delta Plan 2100' proposed an integrated approach for executing activities under 'Blue Economy'. Coastal industrial park, off shore oil-gas exploration, deep port construction based large investment could be ensured. Human Resources development in respect with engineers, navigators, and merchant mariners etc are important. Maritime safety and security must be maintained due to increasing number of illegal activities at sea.
With dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina--the government is advancing with development visions focusing on blue economy. An export oriented development friendly environments could be built-up- emphasizing privatization and quality of products. In the long term- Bangladesh's export sector will be booming up and the country will be a middle-income country by 2030 and developed one by 2041.
The writer is Chief Scientific Officer, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, Gazipur