Blue Economy and the O-SMART Scheme

Blue Economy and the O-SMART Scheme

(GS 3, Economics, The Hindu, Indian Express)

News/ Context: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has recently approved the Continuation of O-SMART (Ocean Services, Modelling, Application, Resources and Technology) Scheme for the period of 2021-26. O-SMART is a central government scheme that addresses ocean development activities in the field of resources, services, technology, science and observation along with the technological assistance to tap the potentials of the Blue Economy.

The Blue Economy is the sustainable use of resources available in the ocean for improved livelihood and jobs, ocean ecosystem health. It focuses on greening of ocean development strategies for higher productivity and ocean health conservation. It encompasses maritime transport, fisheries, tourism, renewable energy, climate change , waste management and renewable energy.  Blue economy also emphasizes on integration of ocean economy with environmental sustainability, social inclusion with innovative business models. Blue economy is reflected in the 14th Sustainable Development Goals, which calls to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. 

The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has rolled out the Draft Blue Economy policy for India in the public domain. The draft blue economy policy document outlines the vision and strategy that can be adopted by the Government of India to utilize the plethora of oceanic resources available in the country.

With an Exclusive Economic Zone of over two million sq-km and 7,517-km long coastline, India has a unique maritime position. It presents a huge opportunity to tackle food security, poverty and unemployment. 

In the post Covid crises, the resources in these areas can spur India’s  economic recovery. It gives high return on investment. 

A high-level panel for a sustainable ocean economy, co-chaired by the Norwegian Prime Minister (PM) found that investment of one dollar in key ocean activities yields five dollars in return, often more. With the spread of coastline across nine coastal states, 12 major, and 200 minor ports, India’s blue economy supports 95% of the country’s business through transportation and contributes an estimated 4% to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  All sectors in the blue economy like Aquaculture, Fishing, Fish Processing, Marine Tourism, Shipping and port activities have the potential to employ a large workforce. New sectors like Marine Biology, Offshore wind, biotechnology, ship breaking and ship building etc are also on rise. 

The blue economy in India will get strength from the continuation O-SMART scheme, mentioned above. 

Way Forward : At International platform  A High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy commissioned a new report that proposes a roadmap for economic recovery from COVID-19 that utilizes opportunities in the ocean economy and ensures investments help catalyze progress towards a sustainable ocean economy that delivers effective protection of ocean ecosystems, sustainable production and equitable prosperity — in essence, a “sustainable and equitable blue recovery.”

The report proposes a set of five priority opportunities for governments to consider for the immediate investment of stimulus funds to support a sustainable and equitable blue recovery from the coronavirus crisis. These are Invest in Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Restoration and Protection, Invest in Wastewater and Sewerage Infrastructure For Coastal Communities, Invest in Sustainable, Community-led Marine Aquaculture (Mariculture), Provide Incentives to Stimulate Investment in Zero-emission Marine Transport,  Provide Incentives to Catalyze Sustainable Ocean-based Renewable Energy. 

In International Cooperation under India-Norway Integrated Ocean Management Initiative, officials and researchers are cooperating on improving the governance of resources in the ocean  through marine spatial planning. 

In addition various Universities and technical institutes of the country should offer courses and train personnel in the field of blue economy. 

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