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Neha Ninawe asked: What's the difference between blue economy and blue-water economy with respect to maritime diplomacy?

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  • Abhay Kumar Singh replies: The concept of ‘Oceans Economy’ or ‘Blue Economy’ is recent and originates from the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. At the heart of the concept is a separation of socio-economic development from environmental degradation, which is how it has traditionally been seen as a global status quo. The ‘Blue Economy’ or the ‘Oceans Economy’ is defined by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) as “a subset of, and complement to, the evolving development paradigm emphasising greener and more sustainable and inclusive economic paths. It seeks to expand the economic frontiers of coastal countries beyond their land territories. The Oceans Economy encompasses a sustainable economy for the ocean-based marine environment, related biodiversity, ecosystems, species and genetic resources including marine living organisms (from fish and algae to micro-organisms) and natural resources in the seabed while ensuring their sustainable use and hence, conservation.”

    The term ‘Blue-Water Economy’ was referred to in a column published in The Indian Express in February 2016 which argued that “the blue economy, as distinct from the blue-water economy, encompasses in it the ‘green economy’, with focus on the environment, and the ‘ocean economy’ or ‘coastal economy’, with its emphasis on complementarities among coastal and island states for sustenance and sustainable development.” There is no agreed definition of ‘Blue-Water Economy’. It largely denotes economic activities conducted on high seas which include marine transportation, deep sea fishing and deep sea mineral explorations.

    The ‘Blue Water’ and ‘Brown Water’ refers to the spatial dimensions of ocean space with reference to their relative distances from the coast. The ‘Brown Water’ refers to oceanic areas closer to coast due to the presence of sediments which discolours the water and are largely under the jurisdictional control of littoral states as ‘Territorial Sea’ or ‘Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)’. The ‘Blue Water’ signifies oceanic areas away from the coast and as ‘High Seas’ are free from the jurisdictional control of states are considered as the common heritage of mankind. The ‘Blue Water’ or ‘High Seas’ are regulated through international conventions like the UN Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS).

    It is pertinent to note that the international rules and norms for ‘Blue Economy’ or ‘Blue-Water Economy’ are still evolving and are being actively considered in various multilateral forums at regional and global levels. Through proactive diplomatic engagement in these forums countries aim to protect and enhance their economic and strategic interests in the maritime arena.  

    Posted on June 30, 2017

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