The oceans are central to the future. Handle them wisely | Opinion – analysis
The ongoing pandemic has cruelly reminded us of the need for cross-border partnerships to solve global challenges. This is more than ever true of the challenges facing our oceans. India and Norway recognize this today in our celebration of World Oceans Day. Just respecting (samman in Hindi) our ocean spaces together (sammen in Norwegian) we can benefit from its full potential today and in the future.
Our oceans are home to the longest mountain ranges in the world and the deepest canyons. They give us oxygen and regulate the climate. Almost half of the world’s inhabitants depend on the oceans for food and employment, and the numbers are increasing. In just 30 years, the world population may be close to 10 billion people. The world will search the oceans for food, jobs, energy, transportation, raw materials, medicines and economic growth in order to sustain a population of this magnitude.
Our oceans are already under tremendous pressure. There is an urgent need for concerted action to ensure a more sustainable and integrated approach in the coming years. India and Norway have joined forces to address some of the most relevant questions related to this balance between exploitation and preservation.
The ocean industries (marine energy, shipping, seafood and new industries) form the backbone of the Norwegian economy. They provide significant opportunities for prosperity and employment for our two countries on the road to recovery after the pandemic. Norwegian companies recognize the vast potential of Indian blue economy industries and can offer significant competition. India and Norway are ready to seek new business alliances in a variety of sectors, such as sustainable shipping, aquaculture, and renewable energy.
India launched an ambitious deep-ocean mission last year that over a five-year period will explore the deepest recesses of the central Indian Ocean basin, analyze the harnessing of tidal energy, and study biodiversity, metals and the minerals of the oceans.
To fulfill the potential of the blue economy for future generations as well, we must ensure that our oceans are safe, clean and healthy. None of our countries has always had the right balance between exploitation and protection. In the long run, however, it is clear that what is good for the ocean environment is also good for ocean business.
A recent “blue paper” commissioned by the high-level panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy presents the case for integrated ocean management to achieve a sustainable ocean economy. The long-standing scientific partnership between India and Norway regarding ocean research has been strengthened with the launch of a Joint Initiative on Integrated Ocean Management between our two countries in February. We are currently exploring how we can share experiences, research and technology in this field.
Marine litter is an environmental problem that poses a significant risk to the blue economy, as well as to marine life itself. We are concerned by reports that there could be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050. Fortunately, we have the knowledge and technology to solve this problem. Both India and Norway are making great strides in the right direction. India, for example, has an ambition to phase out single-use plastic by 2022. We have established a Joint Marine Pollution Initiative, drawing on our respective strengths in waste management, marine research, business and technology to learn from one another and implement best practices.
Garbage does not respect national borders; This is another challenge that requires global solutions. Our two environment ministers are therefore jointly committed to supporting global action on plastic pollution. We are exploring the feasibility of establishing a new global agreement to manage the world’s responsibility, facing the common challenges of marine litter.
India and Norway are strongly committed to achieving the ambitions set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is our common global framework. Much work remains to be done to achieve SDG 14: Life under water. However, success related to this goal will facilitate progress on other SDGs, such as ending poverty and hunger and ensuring good health. Cooperation between a variety of stakeholders is key to achieving all the SDGs, at the national, bilateral and multilateral levels, on land and at sea.
On this World Oceans Day, we are proud to affirm a strong partnership between India and Norway on our journey to the oceans that are rich and healthy. We learn from each other about the oceans, the technologies to master their resources, and the actions necessary to increase sustainability. An added value is a greater understanding of each other’s countries and our culture, heritage and language. These are important cornerstones in any good relationship. The Indo-Norwegian Oceanic Association aims to deliver siger (victory) for our sagar (oceans) through respect (samman) together (Sammen).
Hans Jacob Frydenlund is the Norwegian Ambassador to India and Ratan P Watal is Member Secretary, Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, Government of India.
The opinions expressed are personal.