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India’s Blue Economy Potential & Draft Policy Framework

Updated: Mar 22

Owing to its potential, the Government of India recognizes Blue Economy as one of the ten core dimensions of group under its Vision for New India by 2030.

Image Courtesy: Pixabay

The term ‘blue economy’ as defined by the World Bank is the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystems. In the Indian context, blue economy means several economic opportunities emerging from the ocean & marine ecosystems. Generally, blue economy synthesizes four broad aspects including food security, water resources and conservation, livelihoods, and climate change mitigation.

To give a quantified outlook, India with an over 7,500-km long coastline is the third largest fish producing and second largest aquaculture fish producing country in the world. Owing to its potential, the Government of India recognizes Blue Economy as one of the ten core dimensions of group under its Vision for New India by 2030.

India’s blue economy strategy and framework can leverage not only economic benefits but also contribute to building climate resilience and mitigation through innovative & environmental consciousness. The Draft policy framework on India’s Blue Economy as presented by the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister in 2020, focused on developing blue economy legislation and enhanced capacities as medium term goals. The draft also mooted for the creation of a National Accounting Framework for collection of data and scientific collaboration for specific tools & technologies and establishment of a maritime development fund.

Image Courtesy: Pixabay

Another important aspect of the policy framework mentioned coastal tourism, highlighting significant potential along with the need to apply the carrying capacity of coastal ecosystems especially in fragile island territories. For example, it argued for the establishment of impact assessments to map tourist arrivals, infrastructure, and major attractions along with benchmarking standards such as eco-labelling, sustainability procedures and waste management systems for beaches.

Key Sectors of the Blue Economy 

Blue economy in India covers many sectors & industries. At current, the blue economy in India account for roughly 4% of the GDP. Among the exhaustively long list of sectors that are fundamental in improving the blue economy mechanism of the country are water transport, fishery & aquaculture, mineral exploration, coastal management & governance. Shipbuilding and shipping are also important aspects of blue economy in India.         

Image Courtesy: Pixabay

Fisheries sector is one of the most important sectors that contributes not only to the economy and livelihoods but also to food security in the country. The fishing industry in India remains heavily dependent on capturing fish for its 11 million metric tonne supply which however does not match the growing demand of about 18 million metric tonnes for fish. Mariculture is a specialized branch of aquaculture which uses captive breeding and mass production technologies for high-value marine fish species. Currently, marine aquaculture remains limited in practice in India.

Another practice of saline water aquaculture traditionally practiced in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, and Tamil Nadu called Brackish water fish farming is also on the rise in the country. The government set up an action plan for Mission Brackish Water/Saline Aquaculture in 2017.  In its plan, the government identified additional states such as Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Haryana, Punjab, Goa, and Gujarat for implementation of the practice.

A key sector highlighted by the government’s draft policy on Blue Economy is that of Marine Tourism   which aims to use the example of European Union to develop its maritime and coastal tourism sector. The EU Communication had addressed some key challenges of improving knowledge through specific indicators and addressing volatile tourism demand. It thus provided a blueprint to focus on tourism in a fragile ecosystem with environmental pressures.               

Challenges and Opportunities 

Adopting a blueprint from the EU comes with its own challenges of understanding localized challenges for India. Much of the blue economy is directly connected to the coastal communities, their practices, livelihoods, and direct impacts from climate change. Thus, it is also important to consider their specific needs & demands in incorporating a policy framework.

When discussing the blue economy, it is important to find a balance between taking advantage of the opportunities as well as recognizing the threat to ocean resources due to economic exploitations. Some of the direct challenges are climate change and marine pollution that affect the fishing industry. Enabling tourism can also add to the already aggravating issue of pollution.

On the other hand, the blue economy also provides ample resources for India’s renewable energy exploration. The offshore wind energy sector which is being facilitated by the government with projects across Tamil Nadu gives a great opportunity for exploration & use of ocean energy and sea-bed leasing.

In conclusion, while the Blue Economy holds great potential for India across sectors and multiple opportunities to harness the vast maritime resources for sustainable growth. However, there is a need for integration of innovative solutions, international cooperation, inclusive policies as well as a well-formed regulatory framework to propel the Blue Economy in India.


Anusha Arif is a research associate at the Social Policy Research Foundation (SPRF), New Delhi. Her work mainly focuses on climate change and sustainability. She is a policy researcher and lawyer with an LL.M. in Environment Law.

Anusha aims to bring valuable insight into climate change policy and related areas by addressing the world's complex challenges through her work.

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