Olive Ridley turtles are among thousands of marine animals highlighted as endangered. Yet, in a pristine stretch of the Konkan coast of India, a little-known nesting site for Olive Ridley turtles is threatened by a proposed road construction project. The road project, which is a template for unplanned development across different parts of the world, has thankfully been stopped for now by the state administration.
Not all such endangered species are lucky as global warming, loss of habitat due to unplanned development, marine pollution and oxygen depletion are leading to mass extinction of marine life on the planet. The threat to Olive Ridley turtles may seem to be an isolated case but there are several other issues building up around our entire marine ecosystem which, together with the impact of climate change, can destroy both lives and livelihoods.
What is Blue Economy and why is it relevant
It may therefore be important to first understand the Blue Economy more holistically. What is it and why is it critical? We need to really start by thinking of water as a resource and put together a list of every economic activity that inland water bodies and oceans provide for us.
There have been significant changes in our water bodies due to pollution, disposal of wastes (including plastics) and pollution caused by ships. These together have the potential to impact traditional livelihoods such as fisheries, tourism and harm the entire economy dependent on it. Authorities should therefore recognize the criticality of the oceans and its resources and solve for the degradation of the marine ecosystem.
The size puts it in perspective. The worldwide ocean economy is valued at around $1.5 trillion per year, making it the seventh largest economy in the world. It is set to double by 2030 to $3 trillion. The total value of ocean assets (natural capital) has been estimated at $24 trillion.
What's endangering it
In recent times, the pressure imposed on marine resources has risen drastically. In turn, a lack of sufficient action to mitigate harmful practices has led to the endangerment of marine life. Dredging, the act of clearing the waterbed for various purposes adversely affects marine organisms through habitat degradation, contamination, and collisions. It must be planned in a manner that avoids environmental windows (periods in which marine animals are sensitive). Furthermore, cargo handling must be made more efficient and acts of ocean dumping must be scrutinized closely. Additionally, it is also important to monitor and prevent pollution from ships and oil spills as well as reduce harmful emissions like nitrogen and sulfur dioxide. Plastic pollution in open waters itself poses an immediate threat to the destruction of marine ecosystems, along with human health in the form of microplastics.
Creation and maintenance of improved shipping infrastructure and prudent use of resources while at sea, and effective management of plastic waste are all effective antidotes to the crisis. In turn, we must also recognize the grim hand of increased carbon emissions while dealing with phenomena such as ocean acidification and the rapid rise in seawater levels. The damage in this case extends far beyond marine ecosystems to include human life and ecology. Wetland flooding, contamination of agricultural land, and erosion are only a slice of the entire picture unfurling in front of our eyes if we fail to mitigate climate change and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
Steps needed to provide for it
India has taken note and launched the shipbuilding, fisheries, and maritime vision for 2030 in 2021. The initial draft for developing a comprehensive framework for the Blue Economy was released in 2020. The G 20 nations, which are all in the coastal region, have reportedly identified it as a priority. They now need to adopt it expeditiously.
Overall, respect for the environment and the Blue Economy needs to be brought right inside the planning process for any economic or development activities - marrying sustainability along with development. A comprehensive policy framework for the Blue Economy and to suitably mitigate and adapt to climate change was never more crucial.
The writer, a 12th Grade student, is passionate about the environment and sustainability and writes occasionally on issues around climate change. Views expressed are personal.