With the landmark verdict on the delimitation of maritime boundary with India and Myanmar, Bangladesh has been endowed with sovereign rights over 200 nautical miles of economic zone and continental shelf in the Bay of Bengal. The government has taken up a number of initiatives to extract and conserve the immensely valuable marine resources found within this area. Millions of taka will be spent to implement these projects.
To ensure protection of the marine resources from illegally intruding fishing trawlers and foreign ships, capabilities of the defense and security agencies like Bangladesh Navy and Coast Guard have been strengthened. The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources has taken the initiative to buy a BDT180 million hi-tech ship. The ship will be used to conduct surveys and researches regarding the types and qualities of deep sea resources in Bangladeshi waters. A decision to establish a series of rudder stations in the coastal areas to ensure proper surveillance, maintenance, and control over the country’s maritime boundary has also been taken. Bangladesh Space Research and Remote Sensing (SPARRSO) has initiated the Fishing Zone Monitoring and Mapping Over Bay of Bengal Program to keep satellite surveillance over the maritime boundary. Besides, various ministries including Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Shipping, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Environment and Forests, etc., have initiated separate projects to extract and conserve marine resources. The Foreign Ministry has already amended the coastal area adjacent to the baseline published in 1974 and issued a gazette.
Nazimuddin Chowdhury, secretary of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, told First News that the initiative to buy a high-tech ship to conduct underwater survey is underway. Bangladesh is buying a vessel of this caliber for the first time in its history, he said. The Geographical Survey of Bangladesh (GSB) is in charge of the project, although Bangladesh Navy will be in charge of the management of the ship. An MoU regarding this project will soon be signed with the navy, and a draft has already been prepared, he said. The Planning Ministry has taken a number of initiatives to ensure strict security in the coastal and deep sea areas as well as to increase the capabilities of the navy and coast guard. Along with two maritime helicopters and two maritime patrol aircraft, a number of frigates, corvettes and other patrol boats have been purchased from abroad. The two new large vessels, built by Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, were delivered to the Bangladesh Navy on December 11, 2015. Moreover, 2 old frigates have been purchased from China as well. A secretary class frigate of the US coastguard has been added to the fleet, while another ship from US coastguard is currently on its way to Bangladesh. Moreover, Bangladesh Navy has formed a command to prevent trafficking and other anti-social activities within its maritime boundaries.
The Ministry of Science and Technology has established laboratories to conduct research in geological materials and organisms of oceanography. Construction of the supporting structures of the Oceanography data center is underway. The ministry is going to buy a high-tech research ship. A building to conduct research activities and a reservoir for keeping saline water for research work has been constructed as well. Construction of the permanent campus of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Maritime University (BSMRMU), the first ever maritime university of Bangladesh, is going swiftly. The university aims to create skilled professionals and entrepreneurs with specialized knowledge about the proper extraction, conversion, and expansion of maritime and fishery resources. The university is also planning to include oceanographic research vessel for the training of students and research works by the scientists to explore the country’s sea resources. Bangladesh University Grants Commission has issued directives to the public and private universities of the country to open specialized courses and programs on various maritime fields.
The Environment and Forest Ministry has prepared 28 action plans to ensure sustainable extraction and environment-friendly management of the marine resources. Of the plans, 4 are short term (1-3 year long), 15 are middle-term (4-7 year long) and 9 are long-term (8-10 year-long). New projects for afforestation in the coastal areas identifying coastal islands through satellite images with the assistance of Environmental and Geographic Information Service Center (CEGIS), creating a coastal and marine wing at the headquarters of the Department of Environment (DoE), and creating new official positions in Chittagong, Khulna, Barisal, Cox’s Bazar and Pirozepur are some of the most notable plans of this ministry.
The other plans include preparing database of coastal and aquatic resources, performing marine biodiversity survey (including seaweed and sea grass), identifying the Environmentally Critical Areas (ECA) and imposing proper management to protect the environment and biodiversity of these areas, and permanently preserving the forests in the coastal areas. Also included are carbon sequestration, reduction of the severity of tidal storms and tornados in the coastal areas, survey on the coastal and aquatic wildlife to issue a checklist, assessment of the effects of the projects of various government and private organizations on the marine resources, selection of plant species as bio indicator to determine the harmful effects of marine pollution, preparation of the geographical expansion map of those plants and species to measure the area of pollution, and introduction of biotech innovation to reduce pollution. Department of Marine Fisheries, Department of Fisheries and Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock have initiated a number of long, middle and short term projects for the scientific conservation, management, accumulation, and development strategy of this huge water resource. A notice has been issued barring the catch of all types of fish and crustaceans in the Bay of Bengal using commercial trawlers or vessels to ensure breeding and conservation of fish in Bangladesh’s economic zones.
With the technical support of Islamic Development Bank and the Malaysian Government, the Department of Fisheries (DoF) has initiated a specialized training program named Marine Fisheries Capacity Building to create skilled manpower in marine fishery extraction and management sector. Under this project, 10 officials were sent abroad for specialized training while 990 officers received various levels of training locally.