The Centre for Indo-Lanka Initiatives of the Pathfinder Foundation conducted a round-table discussion on ‘Bilateral Cooperation for Promoting Blue Economy’ in collaboration with the Vivekananda International Foundation based in New Delhi recently.
The focus of discussion centred on the theme ‘Sustainable Exploitation of Marine Resources’.Three main areas were addressed during the two-day meeting viz. sustainable exploitation of living resources such as fish and other life forms, exploitation of non-living resources such as hydrocarbons and sea bed minerals, and maritime security issues associated with blue economy.
Discussions relating to these broad areas were based on Sustainable Development Goal 14 of the United Nations to ‘Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources’.
The Pathfinder delegation was led by its Chairman Bernard Goonetilleke, and comprised of Admiral (Dr.) Jayanath Colombage, Director of the Centre for Indo-Lanka Initiatives; TilakDharmaratne, Vice Chancellor of the Ocean University; Dr. MuttukrishnaSaravananthan, Principal Researcher of the Point Pedro Institute of Development and AmeeraArooz, Project Manager of the Pathfinder Foundation.
Representing the Indian side was General N.C.Vij, Director VIF, Vice Admiral (Retd.) Anil Chopra; Dr. ShaileshNayak, distinguished scientist; Dr. Vijay Sakhaja, Director National Maritime Foundation; Lieutenant General Ravi Sawhney, Dean, Center for Defence Studies-VIF; Commodore GopalSuri, Senior Fellow, VIF and a host of other distinguished research fellows.
A rich array of academic papers was presented by both sides, followed by discussions to derive the best possible outcome from the round table. In addition to the facets of ‘Blue Economy,’ strategic dimension of the Indian Ocean Region was also discussed. Possible collaboration between the two countries for jointly studying the marine environment, digitalising the blue economy and sharing technical expertise were also discussed.
The meeting observed that oceans, seas and coastal areas are the largest eco-system in the world vital for livelihood and food security of billions of people as well as economic prosperity for many countries and with the expected increase in the world population from seven to nine billion within the next 40 years, nations will look at seas as a source for feeding their increasing populations and extraction of mineral wealth lying at the bottom of the sea-bed.
It was also noted that apart from fisheries, major part of world shipping, whether container, bulk cargo or crude oil transportation is done by sea and they have also become major targets for exploration and production of crude oil and gas, essential for global industries.
Given the importance of oceans for the survival of mankind, strong political vision is required to ensure collaboration in all areas of Blue Economy, as there is a need for “shared commitment” to ensure sustainability of ocean based development. It was acknowledged that both living and non-living resources in the oceans are finite, humans are destroying the oceans and living entities by dumping plastics, garbage and other industrial pollutants and the oceans will not be able to cope up with such indiscriminate acts any longer.
The meeting agreed to prepare an outcome document incorporating the salient points brought up during the discussion and recommendations for cooperation between India and Sri Lanka, which would be helpful for policy makers and other stakeholders, who have an interest in this subject.