Eminent marine experts have emphasized the need to protect our oceans for environment, and future prosperity of Pakistan and the coming generations.
These views were expressed by Commodore (Retd.) Bilal Abdul Nasir and Commodore (Retd.) Babar Bilal Haider while speaking in an exclusive program in connection with World Oceans Day at News and Current Affairs Channel of Radio Pakistan Islamabad on Wednesday.
Commodore (Retd.) Bilal Abdul Nasir is Director of National Institute of Maritime Affairs while Commodore (Retd.) Babar Bilal Haider serves as Director at Indian Ocean Study Centre.
Commodore (Retd.) Bilal Abdul Nasir said the idea of World Oceans Day was first declared on 8 June, 1992, at the Global Forum in Rio de Janeiro. However, on 8th June, 2008 the UN General Assembly formally recognized it as World Oceans Day.
He said out of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, number fourteen is related to deep sea life and the UN has declared 2020 to 2030 as decade of oceans.
He said the idea of observing this day is to give a clean ocean to our next generations as sea is critical to survival of human life. The retired commodore said ocean is a great source of food and trade for us. He said fifty percent of all oxygen is obtained from ocean while thirty percent carbon dioxide produced by humans is absorbed by these water bodies. He said out of the whole world population, around one billion people are reliant on fishing and sea related jobs. By 2030, 40 million population of the world will depend on ocean based industry directly or indirectly.
Commodore (Retd.) Bilal Abdul Nasir said theme of this year’s day is Revitalization: Collective Action for the Ocean which means we need to use the resources of oceans sustainably so that they recover. He said as overfishing could lead to depletion of this precious food source, there is a period of two month prohibition on fishing in Pakistan so that fish gets time to breed. He said a major challenge is provision of alternative sources of livelihood to local fishermen during this period and work needs to be done in this regard.
Taking part in the program Commodore (Retd.) Babar Bilal Haider said Pakistan enjoys more than one thousand kilometers long coastline with four major ports naming Karachi, Port Qasim, Gwadar, and Ormara. He said about 91 percent of our trade is through sea.
When asked by the spectrum of threats on the sea, the retired Commodore said we have to look for traditional and non-traditional threats. Traditional threats include military challenges from adversaries while the non-traditional threats include environment, pollution, piracy, smuggling of narcotics and other goods, illegal dumping of nuclear and chemical waste, oil spills, and illegal poaching of fish. He said Pakistan Maritime Security Agency, Pakistan Navy and Pakistan Coast guard work in tandem to cope with these challenges.
Replying to a question regarding increase of 150 nautical miles or 50,000 square kilometers in country’s seabed territory in 2015, he said it was quite an achievement as Pakistan is the country, which was allotted area after UN accepted Pakistan’s claim for extension of its continental shelf limits . All other claimants have yet to get this allotment. He said over time research and exploration activities in this area will be conducted when more funds are available.
Regarding Pakistan’s shipbreaking industry at Gaddani, Commodore (Retd.) Babar Bilal Haider said Pakistan’s maritime economy comprises of different sectors including shipping, fishing, ports and harbor, maritime tourism, ship breaking and recycling, and boat making and crafting. He said shipping breaking industry at Gaddani stands at number four after Bangladesh, India, and China. He said around thirty thousand laborers are directly related to this industry where more than one hundred ships are broken each year in these yards. The raw material obtained from these ships serves various industries throughout Pakistan. Babar Bilal Haider said around one million families throughout the country are dependent on it. This industry contributes around 15 billion rupees to the government of Pakistan in taxes, however, it needs more incentives and encouragement.
Babar Bilal Haider said due to climate change, polar ice melts and adds as water into oceans leading to rise in sea level. Around sixty percent of world population resides near oceans and their lives and livelihoods are directly threatened due to rise in water level. Pakistan could also face this threat as half of Karachi is falls below sea level. In addition, seas help in raising clouds and leading to rains, and their pattern could also disturb. He said hot and cold water currents also play a role in moderating the temperature of adjoining areas and that could also change.
Adding his thoughts on the shipbreaking industry of Pakistan, Commodore (Retd.) Bilal Abdul Nasir said we need to work further on safety issues related to this industry. International bodies like Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships and Basel Convention related to shipbreaking and pollution need to be fully adhered to. He said we need to stop pollution in the ocean. He said in Karachi, a large amount of industrial waste from the city flows into Karachi Harbor threatening marine and aquatic life besides having adverse impact on our ships. During high tide, he said, all the waste material collects at the harbor and sticks in the machinery damaging essential infrastructure. He gave the example of oil spill of Tasman Spirit in 2003 at Karachi that stuck aground at the mouth of the harbor, requiring immense resources to handle it. He said its aftereffects are being felt even today with black cliffs and stones visible at the Clifton Beach. PMSA holds Baracuda exercises regularly in collaboration with regional countries to deal with similar issues.