INDIA ADDA – Perspectives On India

IBEF works with a network of stakeholders - domestic and international - to promote Brand India.

Importance of India’s Blue Economy

Importance of India’s Blue Economy

Introduction to Blue Economy
Blue Economy is defined by the World Bank as the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of the ecosystem.” For its ties to economic growth, environmental sustainability, and national security, the blue economy generally refers to the multitude of ocean resources accessible in the country that can be utilized to aid in the creation of goods and services. The blue economy offers coastal nations like India a huge socioeconomic opportunity to responsibly use ocean resources for societal benefit. The rise in demand of ocean-linked products such as seafood, energy generation, etc. has led to the growth of the Blue Economy globally, with estimated global turnover ranging between US$ 3-6 trillion annually.

Overview of India’s Blue Economy
The blue economy of India is a subdivision of the national economy that includes the complete ocean resources system as well as human-made economic infrastructure in the country's legal jurisdiction marine, maritime, and onshore coastal zones. India's Blue Economy concept is multi-faceted and plays an important role in the country’s economic growth because of its enormous maritime interests. India’s blue economy accounts for roughly 4% of the GDP and is estimated to increase once the mechanism is improved. The sector has stood strong despite the challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and have recorded exports worth Rs. 56,200 (US$ 7.2 billion) between April 2021-February 2022.  

Ocean resources, physical infrastructure for maritime economic development, marine amenities, and coastal management services are all part of the plan to ensure economic growth and sustainability, as well as national security. Fisheries and minerals are the two most viable components of the blue economy in India. The two mineral deposits of commercial significance to developers in the Indian Ocean are polymetallic nodules and polymetallic huge sulphides. Polymetallic nodules, which are golf-to-tennis-ball-sized nodules containing nickel, cobalt, iron, and manganese that grow over millions of years on the seafloor, are often discovered at 4-5 Kms in water depth. In 1987, India was granted exclusive rights to explore polymetallic nodules in the Central Indian Ocean Basin. It has explored four million square miles and established two mine locations since then.

The coastal economy sustains over 4 million fishermen and coastal towns. India is the second largest fish producing nation in the world and has a fleet of 2,50,000 fishing boats. India has a remarkable marine position with 7,517 kilometers of coastline. Nine of India’s states have access to the coastline. India comprises 200 ports of which 12 are major ports that handled 541.76 million tonnes in FY21, the highest being Mormugao Port, located in Goa, which handled 62.6% of the total traffic.

Shipbuilding and shipping are also important aspects of the blue economy in India. The modal share of coastal shipping has the potential to increase to 33% by 2035, up from roughly 6% presently. Most of the country’s oil and gas is supplied by sea, leading to the Indian Ocean region being critical to India’s economic growth. This reliance is expected to increase dramatically by 2025.  

The Indian Ocean's Blue Economy has become a global economic corridor. It is the world's third-largest body of water, covering 68.5 million square kms and rich in oil and mineral resources, and countries around the ocean's periphery are home to about one-third of humanity. India has significant diplomatic interests in the Indo-Pacific, as well as international commitments in the region under the UNCLOS, such as Search and Rescue, seabed mining, and counter-piracy. Lastly, the reach and exposure of the blue economy is further being increased due to the rapid developments of the country’s inland waterways that cover 14,500 km of India, and the first containerized freight has already passed through the India-Bangladesh Protocol.

Indian Marine Exports (in US$ Billions)

Source: MPEDA

Government Initiatives
In recent years, the Indian government has taken a number of steps to realize the full potential of the country’s blue economy. The Ministry of Earth Sciences, which is the nodal ministry, released the draft of the National Policy for India's Blue Economy-2021. 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 proposed policy framework emphasizes policies in a number of critical areas, including fisheries to aim to achieve holistic growth. The four objectives of this blue economy policy are:

  • Framework for Robust Mechanism: A reliable method for periodic study must be set up in order to generate and gather credible data. An Expert Group would be formed to identify the blue economy sectors and sub-sectors, as well as to develop a measurement system. The development of scientific methods and technology related to blue economy measurement and management will be undertaken in partnership with leading countries/institutions.
  • Sustainable framework for a National Coastal Marine: An Expert Group would be formed to recommend changes to meet the national and local needs. The CMSP (Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning)  would serve as the foundation for future development of the Blue Economy in India's Exclusive Economic zones, which includes the country's islands, as well as developing ecotourism in island areas and expanding the number of Blue Flag beaches. Further, a strong Plastic Elimination and National Marine Litter Policy will address the growing threat of marine pollution, particularly from plastics and microplastics. The Blue Economy activities will be integrated with the National Coastal Mission, which is being proposed by the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change. Blue Economy Policy will also include the execution of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG-14).
  • Framework to domestic manufacturing, emerging industries, trade, tourism, technology, services and skill development connected with the BEP: In order to enhance the ease of conducting business and efficiency, logistics and connectivity will be improved along with a tax regime harmonisation. A Multi-Modal Network and Digital Grid will be launched for the purpose of will be launched to reduce costs.
  • Framework for Ocean Governance: All the components of the policy have an underlying objective that connects them which is keeping an ocean governance structure in consideration that ensures coordination, communication, and clarity across numerous stakeholders, governmental levels, and coastal communities. The proposal of the initiation of an apex body, the National Blue Economy Council will enforce this and prevent compartmentalized work, wastage of effort and policy uncertainty by combining all current skills and programmes into a single supervisory agency for comprehensive planning and implementation.

There have been efforts to boost the fisheries sector of India in order to harness it’s full capacity. The Blue Revolution: Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) was established in 2015-16 with a five-year budget of Rs. 3,000 crores (US$ 384.3 million). The 'Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund' (FIDF) was established in 2018-19 with a fund size of Rs. 7,522.48 crores (963.5 million) to provide concessional credit to state/UT governments, their entities, and the private sector to fill significant gaps in the fisheries infrastructure. The Government of India launched the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY), in May 2020, with the highest investment of Rs. 20,050 crore (US$ 2.5 billion) to bring about a Blue Revolution through sustainable and responsible development of the country's fisheries sector.

Bright Prospects Ahead
The Blue Economy in India is poised for significant growth in the next few years. It’s Blue Economy Mission undertaken by the government can lead to the sector becoming the next economic multiplier, depending on the execution of the policies that have been decided. For e.g., the policies mentioned in the draft policy. The sector is the sixth dimension of the government’s ‘Vision of New India by 2030’; with the Blue Economy policies aiming for long-term economic advantages in order to achieve the greater goals of growth, job creation, equity, and environmental protection.