- GS-2: Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.
- GS-2: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
BIMSTEC & Maritime Protection
Context: As world attention remains focused on the war in Ukraine, leaders of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) will attend a summit meeting of the regional organisation.
- The meet, which is to be held in virtual mode, will be hosted by Sri Lanka, the current BIMSTEC chair.
Significance of BIMSTECH from maritime perspective
- Ecological Importance: Bay of Bengal is home to mangrove forests of around 15,792 square kilometres, coral reefs of around 8,471 sq.km, sea grass meadows, fragile estuaries and mass nesting sites of sea turtles.
- Fish resources: It is an important fishing region with an annual fish catch of around six million tonnes, constituting 7% of the world’s catch and valued at around U.S.$4 billion.
- Support to Livelihood: Approximately 185 million people are dependent on the natural resources provided by the bay. The fishermen population alone is estimated to be around 3.7 million.
What are the challenges that confront the Bay of Bengal?
- Environmental Degradation: Destruction of natural protection against floods such as mangroves, sea erosion. The annual loss of mangrove areas is estimated at 0.4% to 1.7% and coral reefs at 0.7%.
- Climate Change: It is predicted that the sea level will increase 0.5 metres in the next 50 years. It is also prone to extreme weather events. for ex: 13 cyclonic storms in the last five years.
- Growing population pressure and industrial growth in the coastal areas and consequently, huge quantities of untreated waste flow.
- Emergence of a dead zone with zero oxygen where no fish survive primarily caused by leaching of plastic & untreated waste from rivers as well as the Indian Ocean.
- Unsustainable fishing: Around 4,15,000 fishing boats operate in the Bay and it is estimated that 33% of fish stocks are fished unsustainably
- Security threats such as terrorism, piracy, illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and fishermen crossing maritime boundaries are additional problems.
- Tapping the blue economy potential of the Bay of Bengal requires coordinated and concerted action by governments, scientists and other experts.
- The BIMSTEC Summit must create a new regional mechanism for coordinated activities on maritime issues of a transboundary nature.
- This mechanism must take measures to promote sustainable fishing methods, establish protected areas and develop frameworks to prevent and manage marine pollution.
- There is limited cooperation between countries of the region in marine research. Countries of the region interact with West far more than within the region. This needs to be reversed.
- Participatory approaches must be evolved for real-time assessment and the creation of a regional open fisheries data alliance.
- Leveraging technology like automatic identification system (AIS) trackers along with regional registry to tackle IUU fishing practices.
- Laws and policies in littoral states must be harmonised and the humanitarian treatment of fishermen ensured during any encounter with maritime law enforcement agencies.
Connecting the dots: