OPINION

Integrate SDG14 and Blue Economy

Published: 11 Jul 2019 | Updated: 11 Jul 2019   

Md Kutub Uddinand & Dr. Kazi Ahsan Habib

The blue economy is an approach to the coastal and maritime economy that provides social and economic benefits for current and future generations and protects the nature upon which its prosperity depends. As a highly climate vulnerable country, Bangladesh needs people-based solutions and public investment for coastal and marine conservation to develop a sustainable blue economy. There are political commitments to such conservation and people-based solutions, but the country lacks capacity in terms of knowledge, trained human resources, and policies for this huge task.

Blue Economy: Scope of Integration into the SDGs

Healthy coastal and marine ecosystems, biodiversity, and communities are the main powerhouses for a sustainable blue economy; make progress towards such an economy, the number one challenge for Bangladesh is to restore and conserve coastal marine ecosystems and biodiversity. To build national capacity for this huge task, we need necessary policy measures, and incorporation of the blue economy in long-term national plans, such as the next Five-Year Plan (FYP). The goal 14 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals; ‘Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development’ can be the best available source for a national pathway to incorporate blue economy in the 8th FYP, because SDG 14 targets are focused on increasing knowledge and research capacity as well as the transfer of technologies.

Based on the current status of those ecosystems and communities, the 2nd Marine Conservation and Blue Economy Symposium held in Dhaka in 2017 recommended that related government agencies should incorporate all the SDG14 priority indicators into their mandates, namely; reviving the coastal local economy by rebuilding fisheries, restoring marine and coastal ecosystems, science-based management for sustainable marine fisheries, significantly reducing land-based marine debris and nutrient pollution, and ensuring full access to marine resources to small-scale artisanal fishers.

Policy Reforms

To begin the journey towards a sustainable blue economy; Bangladesh needs a few urgent policy reforms and new policies and action plans as mentioned below;

To build an Ocean Literate citizenry— the Ocean Literacy and Bay of Bengal Literacy should be included in formal and informal education. Coastal zone policy needs to be reformed to accommodate policy provisions to restore the coastal and marine ecosystem with a goal to revive the coastal economies and creating new job opportunities. In order to increase the national income from marine fisheries, and creating better opportunities for the fishers, the country also needs a national strategy and necessary action-plans to enhance and diversify the industrial marine fishing. We also need to enact new laws in the parliament to prevent microplastics. Laws related to the forest, wildlife, environment and protected areas need reforms to include provisions to manage all coastal and near-shore protected areas as the community-managed area to create new economic opportunities. National fisheries policy, laws, regulations, and rules need to be reformed to make sure that by 2030 at least seventy percent of the inland and coastal fishing are under genuine artisanal fishing— and at least fifty percent of the marine fishing is under genuine artisanal fishing activities. National strategies and action plans are needed to implement Ballast Water Management in the seaports; to reduce by-catch in coastal and marine fishing sectors, and to develop clean energy in the coastal and marine areas. Most importantly, for research and development on coastal and marine sustainability, the state needs to establish an autonomous institution to operate a national public grant mechanism for research and extension that can be called Bangladesh Sea Grant.

Actions need to be incorporated in the 8th Five-Year Plan

We recommend the aforementioned targets should be included in the 8th FYP to make progress towards a ‘blue economy’ in Bangladesh.

1.    Major Core Targets: Building an Ocean-literate citizenry, and reviving coastal economies through the restoration of ecosystems.

2.    Poverty: To reduce extreme poverty in the coastal region, and to create good jobs for the underemployed populations; resources should be allocated to         restore Chakoria Sundarbans and other ecologically collapsed or degraded habitats through private land-owner conservation schemes.

3.    Fisheries sub-sector: To reduce extreme poverty and offer good jobs through leveraging fisheries sub-sector, first, public investment should be mobilized to         make sure that millions of fishers either own their necessary boats and gears or they are employed as fish workers. Secondly, Similar to large scale         industrial fishing, marine commercial fishing also should be recognized as a formal economic sector, and taxations should be extended to it (prior to that, a         classification and certification process need to be completed to identify and classify recreational, subsistence, artisanal, and commercial fishing); and third,         initiating the process for sustainable certification of marine industrial fishing with any of the global certification consortium.

4.    Transportation and Communication: First, building necessary infrastructures and implementing Ballast Water Management in all seaports. Secondly,         ensuring all coastal embankments, roads, and protection infrastructures are compliant with ‘living shoreline’ standards; and third, reclaiming and         maintaining the intra-coastal waterways in the central and western coast, and in the greater Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin areas.

5.    Environmental sustainability: Creation of an autonomous institution to operate a public grant mechanism for coastal and marine research and extension. It         will ensure that public agencies have continuous knowledge and community support through the works of a next-generation professional workforce in         participatory conservation.

6.    Urban development: In light of rising sea level and extreme weather events, there should be sectorial targets to re-build coastal and riparian urban         settlements as ‘Ocean friendly’ using new and modified public and private infrastructures.

7.    Energy and infrastructure: A reasonably ambitious target should be set for marine renewable energy generation.


We hope our proposal will be useful for the Planning Commission to integrate SDGs and Blue Economy into the 8th Five-Year Plan more effectively. We also call on the Civil Society Organizations, Educational, and Research Institutions to work together to help public agencies to achieve the goals of a sustainable blue economy. A national platform for the blue economy can provide CSOs, universities and research institutions a forum to collaborate on this.


Md Kutub Uddin is a Facilitator (Participatory Learning and Action) at Voices for Interactive Choice and Empowerment (VOICE). Email: mkuddin@voicebd.org

Dr Kazi Ahsan Habib is a professor at Faculty of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University (SAU). Email: habibka@sau.edu.bd

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