Karachi/Islamabad, 8 June 2021: Mapping and development of strategic human and natural resources in the maritime sector is the need of the hour to sow the seeds of blue economic revolution in Pakistan.
This was the crux of the views expressed by maritime policy experts and marine scientists at a webinar titled ‘The Ocean: Life, Livelihood and Sustainability – Opportunities and Challenges for Pakistan’, which was organized on the eve of World Oceans Day 2021 by Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) in collaboration with University of Karachi, National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA), Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA), and Maritime Study Forum (MSF).
The webinar was chaired by Ambassador (r) Syed Abrar Hussain, IPS’ vice chairman and addressed by Dr Azhar Ahmad, associate professor, Bahria University, Dr Nuzhat Khan, former director general, National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Nisar A. Memon, technocrat and former chairman of the parliamentary committee on water resources, Dr Asma Tabassum, manager ORIC, Karachi University, Naghmana Zafar, senior research fellow, NIMA, Naufil Shahrukh, GM Operations, IPS and general secretary, Maritime Study Forum (MSF), while Commander Moeed, Lt Cdr Imran, and Lt Jameel represented the PMSA. The session was moderated by Hafiz Inamullah Khan, deputy manager outreach at IPS.
The discussants 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 in developing aquaculture in their coastal villages for algae, sea grasses, and several other valuable biological species having great economical, medicinal and environmental importance.
A lot of meaningful research focusing the marine resources of Pakistan has already been carried out in Karachi University, Bahria University and other universities and research institutions, however the government’s apathy and lack of interest in the industrial sector to invest in R&D and commercialize available academic research is a big hurdle that needs to be overcome, they deplored.
Integrated coastal zone management and strict enforcement of national and international environmental laws to protect the sea and its resources was also emphasized by the speakers.
During the discussion in the webinar, it was highlighted that all over the world coastal communities are better off because the coastal areas are more developed. But in Pakistan, except for Karachi, the entire coast has remained neglected. Although CPEC has given a fillip to the maritime sector, more concerted efforts are required to impart modern training and necessary skills in all elements of blue economy.
The National Maritime Policy, promulgated in 2002, was revised in draft form almost a decade back but could not be finalized so far, which the discussants termed as apathy and nonchalance for maritime affairs on the part of the policymakers. Pakistan needs a comprehensive maritime policy which should be formulated by taking all the stakeholders on board, it was urged.
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, introduction of the subject in the educational curriculum at various levels was also advocated.
Commenting on the deteriorating ocean health, the discussants urged the PMSA to take the lead in enforcing environmental laws strictly by creating synergies among the environmental protection agencies of Sindh and Balochistan and the local governments of the coastal districts of both the provinces.