KARACHI: Mapping and development of strategic human and natural resources in maritime sector is the need of the hour to sow the seeds of blue economy revolution in Pakistan.

This was the crux of the views expressed by maritime policy experts and marine scientists at a webinar titled ‘The Ocean: Life, Livelihood and Sustainability — Opportunities and Challenges for Pakistan’, which was organised on the eve of World Oceans Day 2021 by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) in collaboration with University of Karachi, National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA), Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA), and Maritime Study Forum (MSF).

The webinar was chaired by retired ambassador Syed Abrar Hussain, IPS vice chairman and addressed by various experts.

The discussants were of the view that developing aquaculture was critical for enhancing livelihood means and skills of the fisherfolk coastal communities of Pakistan, which populate the 1,001km-long coastline of the country.

Research done in universities can help them in developing aquaculture in their coastal villages for algae, sea grasses, and several other valuable biological species having great economic, medicinal and environmental importance.

A lot of meaningful research focusing on the marine resources of Pakistan has already been done in Karachi University, Bahria University and other universities and research institutions, however the government’s “apathy and lack of interest” in the industrial sector to invest in research and development and commercialise available academic research is a big hurdle that needs to be overcome, they added.

Integrated coastal zone management and strict enforcement of national and international environmental laws to protect the sea and its resources was also emphasised by the speakers.

During the discussion, it was also highlighted that all over the world coastal communities are better off because the coastal areas are more developed. But in Pakistan, except for Karachi, the entire coast has remained neglected. Although CPEC has given a fillip to the maritime sector, more concerted efforts are required to impart modern training and necessary skills in all elements of blue economy.

The National Maritime Policy promulgated in 2002 was revised in draft form almost a decade back, but could not be finalised so far, which the discussants termed as apathy and nonchalance for maritime affairs on the part of the policymakers. Pakistan needs a comprehensive maritime policy which should be formulated by taking all stakeholders on board, it was urged.

In order to enhance awareness of the oceans and maritime sector, introduction of the subject in the educational curriculum at various levels was also advocated.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2021

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