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ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel on Wednesday expressed dissatisfaction over lack of interest shown by the government to explore the potential benefit from the blue economy given its geographical location – 1,047 kilometres coastal area and 290,058 square kilometres seawater in Indian Ocean.

It said the country was not benefiting from the ocean ecosystem in comparison to other coastal South Asian countries as maritime revenue (transshipping) of Bangladesh and India was $6 and $5.6 billion, respectively, while that of Pakistan stood at $183 million.

The Senate Standing Committee on Maritime Affairs, which met here with Rubina Khalid in the chair, was given a briefing on Blue Economy, its major sectors and initiatives taken by the Maritime Affairs Ministry, which spearheads it.

At the outset of the meeting, the committee members expressed their concern on the problems faced by the residents of coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan.

The members of the committee expressed concerns over the conditions of the people residing around the coastal areas, as according to a rough estimate, more than 200 million people worldwide live along coastlines less than five metres above sea level.

Ministry of Maritime Affairs Secretary, Rizwan Ahmad, said the issue comes in the domain of the provincial government, and they should take measures to address the issues.

Senator Maula Buksh Chandio proposed that the ministry should write letters to the provincial governments to address the problem of clean drinking water and other concerns of the local residents near the coastal areas.

The committee was informed that after the approval of claim by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in 2015, Pakistan has achieved a maritime territory of 350 N (nautical miles), which comprises 200 N of Exclusive Economic zone (EEZ) and an area of 150 N as continental shelf.

The maritime sovereignty of Pakistan has been established on the total area of 290,000 sq kilometres, which makes up 36.4 percent of the mainland of the country.

To a question by a member, the Secretary Maritime said that constitutionally 12 N (nautical miles) are associated with the provinces and eight nautical miles is a buffer zone, non-fishing area.

The non-fishing area is for the reproduction and growth of the fishes and these fishes are confined for the local fishermen only.

The secretary said the federal government regulates fishing beyond 20 N miles and deals in marine fishing.

He said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) had brought forward potential prospects of development along the Makran Coast, which would pave the way for maritime tourism and aqua/mari-culture contributing to the national economy.

The committee was also informed that a summary dated 23-09-2020 was submitted to Prime Minister Imran Khan through stakeholding ministries/division with proposal for bringing numerous maritime functions presently assigned to different ministries under the umbrella of single ministry i.e. Ministry of Maritime Affairs.

A coordination mechanism in the form of the National Maritime Board (NMB) and the National Maritime Coordination Committee (NMCC) was also proposed for addressing issues/development of blue economy in Pakistan.

To a question whether Pakistan Navy is a stakeholder in blue economy or not, the secretary maritime affairs said that the navy is an integral part of the blue economy but commercial shipping is not in the domain of Pakistan Navy.

The committee was also informed that Maritime Affairs is working in collaboration with the World Bank to advance the development of blue economy roadmap.

It recommended the ministry to also work in collaboration with the World Bank to launch a project for the provision of clean drinking water for the people of coastal areas.

The committee was also informed that up to 40-45 Chinese companies are being dislocated from China and anticipated to set up their plants in Pakistan.

Gwadar Port and free Zone tax exemptions have also been approved in the Finance Bill, 2020-21.

The committee was also told that the people of Gwadar will be given preference in the jobs, adding a vocational institution was also being established to train the residents of Gwadar for better job opportunities.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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