The mapping and development of strategic human and natural resources in the maritime sector is the need of the hour to sow the seeds of the blue economic revolution in Pakistan.
This was the crux of the views expressed by maritime policy experts and marine scientists at a webinar entitled ‘The Ocean: Life, Livelihood and Sustainability – Opportunities and Challenges for Pakistan.’
The event was organised on the eve of World Oceans Day on Tuesday by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) in collaboration with the University of Karachi, National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA), Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA), and Maritime Study Forum (MSF).
The participants were of the view that developing aquaculture is critical for enhancing the livelihood means and skills of the fisherfolk coastal communities of Pakistan, which populate the 1001km long coastline of the country in large numbers.
Research done in universities can help them develop aquaculture in their coastal villages for algae, seagrasses, and several other valuable biological species having great economical, medicinal and environmental importance.
A lot of meaningful research focusing on the marine resources of Pakistan has already been carried out in Karachi University, Bahria University and other campuses and research institutions.
However, they deplored government apathy and lack of interest from the industrial sector to invest in R&D and commercialise the available academic research.
They said this is a hurdle that needs to be overcome. Integrated coastal zone management and strict enforcement of national and international environmental laws to protect the sea and its resources was also emphasised upon by the speakers.
The participants in the webinar highlighted that all over the world coastal communities are better off because coastal areas are more developed. In Pakistan, except for Karachi, the entire coast has remained neglected.
Although CPEC has given a fillip to the maritime sector, further efforts were required to impart modern training and necessary skills in all elements of the blue economy. Pakistan needs a comprehensive maritime policy which should be formulated after taking all stakeholders on board, said the participants.
The speakers lauded the efforts of IPS to address sea blindness in Pakistan and help create a maritime research community engaging universities and think tanks across the country.
To enhance awareness of the oceans and maritime sector, the introduction of the subject in the curriculum at various levels was also advocated.
The discussants urged the PMSA to take the lead in enforcing environmental laws by creating synergies among the environmental protection agencies of Sindh and Balochistan and their coastal districts’ local governments.