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Draft paper on Blue Economy: Political parties, fishery experts in Kerala voice concern

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on March 18, 2021

The draft paper on Blue Economy released by the Ministry of Earth Sciences had stirred a controversy with political parties and experts in the fishery sector in Kerala voicing concern.

The draft policy has outlined the scope and strategy to exploit the rich oceanic resources.

Kerala Opposition and senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to abstain from implementing it until the provisions detrimental to the fishing community are reviewed. Foreign direct investment (FDI) in the fishery sector would be favourable to capital intensive enterprises and the opening up of deep-sea fishing to multi-nationals would reduce the fishermen community to become mere workers.

Congress member of Parliament Hibi Eden said the “mysterious hurry” displayed by the Union Government to curtail deliberations on the policy by reducing the standard practice for inviting suggestions has raised concerns over the intent and objectives of the policy.

Any policy that has a larger ramification on the livelihood of the most vulnerable sections of the society in a country as diverse as India must be subject to detailed discussions, right from stages of conceptualisation, he said.

The draft proposal aims at creating a National Placer Mission to harness the coastal and offshore placer minerals including strategic ones such as nickel, uranium, copper, thorium, titanium, poly-metallic sulphides among others. This proposal, he said, can be observed as an intervention and encroachment on the rights of States and capable of creating long-term impact on the ocean.

This would further endanger the livelihood of all those dependent on the ocean for the benefit of a few.

According to experts in the fishery sector, the period granted for sending suggestions and ideas is too short and the dates of submitting suggestions must be extended to April 27. The draft policy was published on February 17 and the last date for giving views was February 27.

B Madhusoodana Kurup, founder Vice-Chancellor, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, said, the environmental impact due to launching of various projects such as mining of minerals, metals and rare earth both from coastal and deep waters, tapping of renewable energy from wave, wide, tide etc, various constructions and repairing activities along the coastal areas would be severe causing damages to the resources and discomfort among the coastal population.

The mining will cause the dispersal of slurry and plumes that can spread over extensively which would reduce the primary productivity alarmingly and also adversely affect the growth and survival of living organisms, he said.

The mining may also resurface various pollutants which are presently settled at the sea bottom and their regeneration can cause serious health hazards among the seafood consumers, he said.

The Blue Economy is an enormous socio-economic opportunity for India to responsibly utilise ocean resources for social benefits. However, the projects connected with the exploitation of resources should be done with strict environmental impact assessments. There can be provisions for levying adequate compensation from stakeholders and industries and in the event of causing any environmental damages, he said.

A fishery expert in a government agency told BusinessLine that the Blue Economy is a broad concept that involves various sectors of ocean development comprising the development of ports, fisheries, fishing harbours, maritime sector, exploration of ocean minerals, etc. Seven working groups representing various sectors are involved in making the draft policy. For the fisheries sector, the subgroup has recommended sustainable development of the fisheries sector. “The current controversies are related to other sectors like mineral explorations in the seas, allowing FDI etc,” he said.

Published on March 18, 2021

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