The Financial Express

Blue economy untapped, BEC yet to gather pace

| Updated: November 26, 2017 22:02:50

Blue economy untapped, BEC yet to gather pace

Settling maritime disputes with India and Myanmar opened up new potentials for Bangladesh to tap ‘blue economy’.

But, according to a UNB report, no substantial progress has been made in this regard over the past three years rather than setting up a small ‘cell’ under Energy Division.

The maritime dispute with Myanmar was settled on December 18, 2013 while that of with India on July 8, 2014.

Bangladesh won 19,467 square kilometres out of Indian claimed 25,602 sq km disputed area in the Bay of Bengal. The country sustained a claim to 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone and territorial rights in the Bay of Bengal against Myanmar's claim.

After a long break of about three years since the settlement, the Blue Economy Cell (BEC) was set up in January this year on a very temporary basis under the Energy Division.

But still BEC remains merely a small organ of the Energy Division headed by a director general having only six officials and employees from different organisations appointed on temporary basis.

Energy expert BUET Professor Dr. M Tamim said this happened possibly because of the government's lack of interest in exploration of resources including oil, gas and fisheries in the bay.

"I don't know why the government could not take any decision on multi-client seismic survey in offshore areas. Without acquiring seismic data, it's impossible to make any assessment on our resources in the Bay of Bengal," said he.

Official sources said the government formed a 25-member 'Coordination Committee on Sea Resources Exploration and Fair Management' headed by Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister's Office on August 20 in 2014 for taking up strategic planning in this regard.

The committee, comprised of senior secretary, secretaries and top executives of different ministries and important organisations, were supposed to sit in every three months, prepare strategies and monitor implementations of the government's decision on the issue.

But nobody of the Blue Economy Cell could recognise or confirm whether the committee sat for any meeting in last three years.

"I have no knowledge about any meeting of the committee since I joined the office in BEC," said Ashok Kumar Debnath, a Joint Secretary of the Energy Division, who was posted as the second top official of the cell.

He said the BEC could not be advanced as per government plan because of lack of its manpower. It's very difficult to work with such a small manpower appointed on temporary basis.

"They (BEC manpower) are still drawing salaries from their respective organisations, not from the BEC," he said.

He, however, informed that the parliamentary standing committee on Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry in its recent meeting made a strong recommendation to convert the BEC into an authority with a permanent setup.

"On this basis of the recommendation, we're working to prepare a draft organogram to submit it for the government's approval", he said.

Debnath also thought that until it is made an authority employing a permanent setup, the BEC would face difficulties to move ahead to implement the government's plan.

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