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Blue economy

2023 JAN 12

Mains   > Environment & Ecology   >   Pollution   >   Oceanography


  • India’s G20 Presidency brings about the unique opportunity to prioritize Blue economy for the purpose for growth, green economy and social equity.


  • According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem."
  • The UN specifies Blue Economy as a range of economic activities related to oceans, seas and coastal areas, and whether these activities are sustainable and socially equitable.
  • Blue economy prioritizes all three pillars of sustainability: environmental, economic, and social.


  • Economic significance:
    • The value of the natural capital of the BE is estimated at around USD 25 trillion, with the annual value of produced goods and services estimated to be USD 2.5 trillion per year.
    • 40% of the world’s population live near coastal areas, more than three billion people access the oceans for their livelihood and 80% of world trade is through the oceans.  
  • Sustainable utilization of ecosystem services:
    • Blue economy provides enables the sustainable utilization of services provided by the natural ecosystem:
      • Provisioning services: fisheries, building materials, food etc.  
      • Regulating services: carbon sink and carbon sequestration, erosion prevention, extreme event moderation
      • Cultural services: tourism, recreational, aesthetic, and spiritual benefits.
      • Supporting services: life-cycle maintenance for both fauna and local, element and nutrient cycling
  • Employment and livelihood:
    • Fishing sector in India provides livelihood support to about 2.8 crore people at the primary level and almost twice the number along the value chain.
    • Coastal and Maritime Tourism is expected to generate job opportunities for approximately 8.5 million people by 2030.
  • Promote Industrial growth:
    • Besides fisheries, tourism and shipping, rapidly growing ocean-based industries like wind energy, offshore aquaculture, seabed mining and marine genetic biotechnology are poised to be the future growth drivers of the global south.
  • Clean energy:
    • Oceans are popular sites for renewable energy: offshore wind energy, hydropower and tidal energy. Tapping these would be crucial in reducing energy poverty and attaining the goals of Paris climate deal.
  • Combating climate change:
    • Oceans absorb almost a third of the carbon dioxide emitted annually. Phyto-planktons and sea grass play an important role in blue carbon sequestration.
  • Leverage India’s natural advantage:
    • India has a unique maritime position: a 7517 km long coastline, which is home to nine coastal states and 1,382 islands. This enables India to play an important role in developing globally acceptable principles and regulations on Blue Economy.


  • Marine pollution:
    • Oceans are polluted due to poor waste management, oil spills, surface runoffs and ocean bed mining among others. Eg: About 11 million tonnes of plastic currently enter the ocean every year and without an effective response, it will triple in the next 20 years.
    • Acidification, pollution, ocean warming, eutrophication, formation of dead zones and fishery collapse are some of the consequences of the severe marine pollution.
  • Financial barrier:
    • While an estimated USD 174.52 billion per year is needed to fund SDG 14, barely USD 25.05 billion is spent annually.
    • Developing a Blue Economy requires a stable economy and long-term financial plans. However, high levels of external debt, obstacles due to the pandemic, limited support from global financial institutions and failure of climate financing hinders the transition to a bluer economy.
    • Extra reading: Climate financing:
  • Social barriers:
    • NGO’s, fishers’ organizations, indigenous people and communities are crucial for an inclusive blue economy. However, the interests of communities dependent on the ocean are often marginalized.
    • Eg: Coastal community protests against Vizhinjam port in Kerala over land acquisition.
  • Capacity barriers:
    • Lack of capacity and technology hinders the progress of blue economy.
    • For instance, despite the potential, lack of developed port infrastructure, higher costs of installing turbines, subsea cabling, development of transmission infrastructure and coastal security etc. have been major reasons hindering the development of offshore wind energy in India.  
  • Lack of interest from private sector:
    • Recent survey by KPMG identifies the SDG 14: Life Below Water, as one of the least prioritised SDGs from the perspective of the private sector, with only 18 percent of companies prioritising it.
  • Research and development:
    • Blue Economy requires research and innovations in multiple fields within ocean science and therefore needs intersectoral expertise. However, oceanic researches in India are underdeveloped, particularly in emerging fields like blue carbon sequestration and marine biotechnology.
  • Climate Change:
    • Rising sea levels, variations in Indian Ocean dipole and other impacts of climate change can pose risks to coastal communities and also have negative impacts on the blue economy.
  • Boundary disputes:
    • Developing a Blue Economy requires countries to cooperate in elaborating inclusive policies, respectful of every parties Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) in the ocean and their economic activities. However, maritime boundary disputes are a major hinderance to this cooperation.
  • Unregulated High seas:
    • Despite accounting for almost half of the Earth’s surface, these areas are hardly regulated and also least understood or explored for its biodiversity. Only 1% of these areas are under protection.


  • SDG 14: Life Below Water
    • It concerns conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development, and demands international cooperation for the oceans to get back in balance.
  • Biological diversity in areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (Treaty of the High Seas):
    • It is an international instrument being developed within the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS).
    • It encompasses the high seas and seeks to bring marine areas beyond national jurisdiction under common global management and monitoring.
  • International conventions:
    • MARPOL convention (1973) - It covers pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes.
    • The London Convention (1972) - Its objective is to promote the effective control of all sources of marine pollution and to take all practicable steps to prevent pollution of the sea by dumping of wastes and other matter.
    • UNCLOS prescribes the responsibility on the Coastal States in preserving and protecting the marine environment and associated resources
  • Blue flag certification:
    • Blue Flag certification is a tag given to environment-friendly and clean beaches, equipped with amenities of international standards for tourists.
    • It is awarded by the Copenhagen-based Foundation for environmental education (FEE).
    • There are nearly 33 criteria that must be met to qualify for a Blue Flag certification.
  • The Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in ASEAN Region was adopted by leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations
  • The Global Programme of Action (GPA) for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities:
    • The GPA is the only global intergovernmental mechanism directly addressing the connectivity between terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems.


  • Blue economy as one of the ten core dimensions of growth:
    • Blue economy is part of the 10 most important dimensions of government’s vision for India in 2030.

  • Draft Blue Economy Policy:
    • Released by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, the goal of the policy document is to increase the blue economy's contribution to India's GDP, improve the lives of coastal residents, protect marine biodiversity, and ensure the national security of maritime areas and resources.
    • The document recognizes the following seven thematic areas.
      • National accounting framework for the blue economy and ocean governance.
      • Coastal marine spatial planning and tourism.
      • Marine fisheries, aquaculture, and fish processing.
      • Manufacturing, emerging industries, trade, technology, services, and skill development.
      • Logistics, infrastructure and shipping, including trans-shipments.
      • Coastal and deep-sea mining and offshore energy.
      • Security, strategic dimensions, and international engagement.
  • Deep ocean mission:
    • It is the Government of India mission to explore deep ocean for resources and develop deep sea technologies for sustainable use of ocean resources.
    • The Deep Ocean Mission consists of six major components:
      • Development of Technologies for Deep Sea Mining and Manned Submersible
      • Development of Ocean Climate Change Advisory Services
      • Technological innovations for exploration and conservation of deep-sea biodiversity
      • Deep Ocean Survey and Exploration
      • Energy and freshwater from the Ocean
      • Advanced Marine Station for Ocean Biology
    • Read more here:
  • National offshore wind energy policy:
    • Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has been authorised as nodal ministry for use of offshore areas within the EEZ of the country.
    • National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) has been authorised as the agency for development of offshore wind energy in the country.
  • National wind-solar hybrid energy policy:
    • The main objective of the Policy is to provide a framework for promotion of large grid connected wind - solar PV hybrid system for optimal and efficient utilization of transmission infrastructure and land.
    • Ministry set a target of 5.0 GW of offshore wind installations by 2022 and 30 GW by 2030
  • Coastal regulation zones:
  • ‘Swachh Sagar, Surakshit Sagar’:
    • It was a 75 days long coastal clean-up campaign for cleaning of at least 75 beaches along the coastal districts.
    • It started on 05th July 2022 and culminated on 17th September 2022 the ‘International Coastal Clean Up Day’.
  • India-Norway Task Force on Blue Economy for Sustainable Development


  • Develop globally acceptable policies:
    • The G20 Presidency is an opportunity for India to lead the development of specific principles and guidelines for fostering a blue economy.
  • Research and development:
    • India must invest in research and development and promote inter-sectoral cooperation in areas like renewable ocean energy, blue carbon sequestration and marine biotechnology.
  • Financial resources:
    • Innovative ‘blue financial products’ like blue bonds and loans, and blue derivative products will have to be thought of to finance blue economy policies.
  • Foster international cooperation:
    • Developing the blue economy should be based on national and global expertise. For the same, exchange knowledge and expertise, development of a dedicated fund and creation of a knowledge hub must be encouraged.
  • Capacity building:
    • Investment in marine governance, human resource and infrastructure is needed to promote sustainable fisheries, regenerative tourism and the protection of coastal wetlands and ecosystems.


Q. Discuss the concept of Blue economy and its importance for India.