Oceans are central to the future. Manage them wisely | Opinion
India and Norway have come together to find a way to balance between ocean exploitation and preservation
The ongoing pandemic has cruelly reminded us of the need for partnerships that transcend boundaries in order to solve global challenges. This is more than ever true for the challenges facing our oceans. India and Norway recognise this today in our celebration of World Oceans Day. Only by respecting (samman in Hindi) our ocean spaces together (sammen in Norwegian) can we benefit from its full potential today and in the future.
Our oceans hold the world’s longest mountain ranges and 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 figures are increasing. In only 30 years, the global population may be close to 10 billion people. The world will look to the oceans for food, jobs, energy, transport, raw materials, medicines and economic growth to be able 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 years to come. India and Norway have joined forces to tackle some of the most pertinent questions related to this balance between exploitation and preservation.
The ocean industries — offshore energy, maritime transportation, seafood and newer industries — constitute the backbone of the Norwegian economy. They provide significant opportunities for prosperity and employment for both our countries on the path to recovery after the pandemic. Norwegian businesses recognise the vast potential of the Indian blue economy industries, and can offer important competence. India and Norway are ready to pursue new commercial partnerships in a range of sectors, such as sustainable shipping, aquaculture and renewable energy.
India has launched an ambitious Deep Ocean Mission last year which over a five-year span will explore the deepest recesses of the Central Indian Ocean Basin, look at harnessing tidal energy and study the oceans’ biodiversity, metals and minerals.
In order to fulfil the potential of the blue economy also for future generations, we must ensure that our oceans are safe, clean and healthy. Neither of our countries has always got the balance right between exploitation and protection. In the long run, it is, however, 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 makes the case for integrated ocean management for achieving a sustainable ocean economy. The longstanding 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 issue that represents a significant risk for the blue economy as well as for 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 taking great strides in the right direction. India, for example, has ambitions to phase out single-use plastic by 2022. We have established a Joint Marine Pollution Initiative, which is taking advantage of our respective strengths in waste management, marine research, business and technology in order to learn from one another and implement best practices.
Litter does not respect national boundaries; so this is another challenge that demands global solutions. Our two ministers of environment have, therefore, jointly committed to supporting global action on plastic pollution. We are exploring the feasibility of establishing a new global agreement in order to manage the responsibility of the world, for the common challenges on marine litter.
India and Norway are both strongly committed to achieving ambitions set in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is our common global framework. Much work remains to be done in order for us to reach SDG 14 — Life Below Water. Success related to this goal will, however, facilitate progress in 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 solid partnership between India and Norway on our journey towards oceans that are both wealthy and healthy. We learn from each other about the oceans themselves, the technologies to master its resources, and the action needed to increase sustainability. An added value is an increased understanding of each other’s countries and our culture, heritage and language. These are important cornerstones in any good relationship. The Indo-Norwegian ocean partnership aims to deliver siger (victory) for our sagar (oceans) through respect (samman) together (sammen).