Dhaka, Sept 5 (UNB) – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday urged the IORA member states to respond quickly to save the marine ecological system as the protection of ocean and sea resources is essential to get long-term benefits from the Indian Ocean belt.
“We’ve to realise that every investment we make and every step we take to protect our oceans and marine resources is well worth in the long-term regional benefits,” she said while inaugurating the 3rd IORA Blue Economy Ministerial Conference (BEC-III) at Intercontinental hotel in the city.
The ministers and representatives of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) countries participated in the two-day conference titled ‘Promoting Sustainable Blue Economy – making the best use of opportunities from the Indian Ocean’.
The Prime Minister said oceans and seas absorb almost 30 percent of all greenhouse gases as well as 90 percent of the excess heat caused by global warming.
“The existence of human race will be in peril if the marine ecological system disrupts. We need to respond very quickly to tackle these challenges. We need to be concerned about the all kinds of illegal activities in the ocean,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said a properly coordinated, profitable and overall a protective policy to the sea and ocean has to be adopted and act accordingly to achieve the goal.
“We’ve to keep it in mind that we cannot sacrifice the marine environment in pursuing economic growth. We should simultaneously look blue economic growth and think blue,” she said
For the conservation of the marine lives, she mentioned, Bangladesh has completely banned fishing by destructive methods and means.
Hasina said her government has formulated short-, medium- and long-term ‘Plan of Actions’ with a view to conserving, controlled harnessing, managing and development of fishes in the Bay of Bengal. “We’ve achieved self-sufficiency in fish production for the first time in 2018,” she said.
Realising the importance of the sea and potential of marine resources, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman first adopted ‘The Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones Act, 1974’, in order to set the limit of the ‘Maritime Zones’ of Bangladesh and conduct different activities within the limit and also to search for sea resources, Hasina said.
“This law was enforced eight years before the declaration of the ‘United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982’. The international community even did not have sufficient ideas on this issue at that time,” she said.
Hasina said it is a bitter truth that oceans are now under ominous threat owing to the human-induced causes for example- over-extraction or exploitation of resources, environmental pollution, oil spill, littering of plastic wastes, underwater noise pollution and above all the climate change.
All these activities are resulting in further heating of seawater and thereby impose threats to the marine biodiversity, Sheikh said adding that most of the IORA member states are highly vulnerable to Tsunami and cyclones.
The Prime Minister said the oceans and seas are the potential and versatile resource frontiers for the mankind, which are still remained underexplored mostly.
She said oceans and seas account for 90 percent of world trade and 60 percent of oil transportation. In the last 15 years, the real value of maritime trade has been trebled, reached 20 trillion USD from 6 trillion USD, she added.
Hasina said there are great opportunities to accelerate the sustainable development process of the respective countries of the region through blue economy approach making best use of the unused or untapped resources of the sea.
In pursuit of making the best outcome of a unified sustainable blue economy, there is no alternative to cooperation and coordination among the stakeholders, she said urging all to build a consensus agreement to achieve the Goal-14 of the SDGs through a sustainable approach of management of the sea resources in this conference.
“I hope that this spirit of cooperation and momentum of collaboration among the IORA members will be augmented in the days to come,” she said adding that due to plethora of challenges, IORA member states are still lagging behind in some aspects compared to other regions.
The Prime Minister hoped that IORA members will take decisions in unison and friendly atmosphere to help build a unified sustainable blue economic belt in this region.
Bangladesh is going to take charges as the Vice-Chair on October 1, 2019 for two years and the Chair on October 1, 2021 for next two years of the IORA, she said seeking cooperation from all the members in discharging these challenging duties.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, IORA chair and also South African Deputy Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Makhotso Magdeline Sotyu, IORA Secretary General Ambassador Dr Nomvuyo N. Nokwe, International Seabed Authority (ISA) Secretary General Michael W. Lodge spoke on the occasion.
Secretary (Maritime Affairs Unit) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Rear Admiral (Retd) Md Khurshed Alam delivered the welcome speech.