A subregional grouping that must get back on course:
Founded in 1997, the seven-member BIMSTEC includes the littoral states of India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Thailand is a member too) and the land-locked states of Nepal and Bhutan.
BIMSTEC has identified 14 pillars for special focus.
BIMSTEC summit: Priority areas
- Marine environmental protection: It must become a priority area for cooperation in the Bay of Bengal by strengthening enforcement and sharing information on best practices.
- Regional protocols: These need to be developed, along with establishing guidelines and standards on pollution control.
- Home-grown solutions: There is a need for home-grown solutions based on capabilities of local institutions. Also, there is a need to create regional frameworks for data collection.
- Participatory approaches must be evolved for near-real-time stock assessment and the creation of an regional open fisheries data alliance.
- The summit should come up with the measures to curtail unsustainable as well as IUU fishing. Steps could include:
- setting up an international vessel tracking system and making it mandatory for vessels to be equipped with automatic identification system (AIS) trackers;
- establishing a regional fishing vessel registry system and publishing vessel licence lists to help identify illegal vessels;
- increasing monitoring, control and surveillance in IUU fishing hotspots;
- Emergence of a dead zone with zero oxygen where no fish survive;
- Leaching of plastic from rivers as well as the Indian Ocean;
- Destruction of natural protection against floods such as mangroves;
- Sea erosion;
- Growing population pressure and industrial growth in the coastal areas and consequently, huge quantities of untreated waste flow.
- Security threats such as terrorism, piracy and tensions between countries caused by the arrests of fishermen who cross maritime boundaries are additional problems.
- Increasing sea levels: It is predicted that the sea level will increase 0.5 metres in the next 50 years.
- Cyclonic storms: Moreover, there have been 13 cyclonic storms in the last five years.
The challenges that confront the Bay of Bengal region brook no more delay. BIMSTEC must arise, awake and act before it is too late.
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