Blue Economy: Concept, Elements and Evolution

Blue economy refers to marine-based sustainable economic development which leads to improved human wellbeing and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.

Blue Economy versus Green Economy

Green Economy is the traditional approach to sustainable development which revolves around the idea of controlling environmental pollution in the process of development. Thus, green economy is a land-locked vision that looks from the land to ocean space. An alternative vision was given by Elisabeth Mann Borgese (founder of the International Ocean Institute) – who viewed the situation from the seaward side, where a sustainable ocean economy integrates with and is inclusive of the Green Economy. She famously stated “if before you saw the sea and the sea floor as a continuation of the land, you now see the land as a continuation of the sea. The idea of Blue economy justifies this alternative vision.

Key Elements of Blue Economy

Apart from addressing concerns such as resource scarcity and waste disposal, blue economy aims for holistic and sustainable development along with enhancing human welfare. It is a broad concept as it is not only confined to minerals and marine products, but also includes even maritime activities like shipping services. This concept visualizes oceans as development spaces in which activities like conservation, sustainable energy production, mineral wealth extraction, bio-prospecting, marine transport etc. are integrated. They key elements thus can be summarized as follows:

  • Optimum and efficient utilization of resources
  • Sustainable, inclusive, harmonious and environment friendly development.
  • Exploitation of opportunities in emerging marine industries.
  • Creating and streamlining legal and regulatory institutions which govern the access, use and protection of maritime resources.

Evolution of Concept

The idea of blue economy got further boost by Gunter Pauli’s book, “The Blue Economy: 10 years, 100 innovations, 100 million jobs” (2010). The concept was taken up in Rio+20 (2012) also. In this meeting, the Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) held that the concept of green economy has very little relevance for them; instead they wanted a ‘Green Economy in a Blue world’. They felt that this new concept was most suitable for management and sustainable development of ocean resources. These countries feel that their fate is inexplicably linked with the health of the oceans.

Blue Economy as National Strategy

Many countries have included the concept of blue economy as a part of their national strategy. For example, China has already initiated Five Year development Plans on National Marine Economy, which keeps track of progress in various marine sectors. Similarly, the European Union has integrated its ‘Blue Growth’ strategy with Europe 2020 strategy for smart, inclusive and sustainable development of its maritime sectors. Ocean bound countries like Mauritius and Seychelles want to adopt blue economy as an important constituent of their national development strategy. However, they lack the necessary technologies and investments and look upon India and China for support.

Blue economy also reflects in the Goal 14 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which states: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”.

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