Holding out the perils of mindless exploitation of oceanic resources, the national auditor has said they should go the ‘land’ resources way.
In his inaugural address at the three-day meeting of senior audit officials of the G20 being held in Guwahati from Monday, the Comptroller Auditor General of India (CAG) Girish Murmu said, “We as Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) have an opportunity here—to ensure that the journey of exploring the oceanic resources does not follow the same path as exploitation of land.”
Underlining the role of audit, he said, “The unplanned and unregulated development in the coastal areas have to be highlighted in audit. At the same time, governments have to be shown with evidence the importance of ensuring that the livelihoods of the people living in these areas, is not affected adversely.”
The CAG’s remarks acquire significance in the backdrop of smoke fumes from the Brahmapuram waste plant engulfing parts of the port city of Kochi with many citizens experiencing breathing problems even as local administration issued advisories to locals to remain indoors and use masks when they step out.
The billowing smoke resulted from a fire in the waste plant on March 2.
In tandem with the G20 agenda, the SAI meeting is focusing on the twin agenda of ‘Blue Economy’ and Artificial Intelligence.
‘Blue Economy’ looks at conserving marine and freshwater environments while “promoting their sustainable use, producing food and energy, supporting livelihoods, and acting as a driver for economic advancement and welfare.”
The challenges to a ‘Blue Economy’ includes physical alterations and destruction of marine and coastal habitats, unplanned and unregulated development in the narrow coastal interface, marine pollution, unsustainable extraction of marine resources - such as overfishing, etc.
Another challenge that the CAG marked out as a challenge in India is the potential of multiplicity of implementation agencies at different tiers of governance. “The intertwining of social, economic and environmental-ecological sectors with different priorities and governance frameworks results in a complicated implementation framework, with potential inter-sectoral issues and conflict.”
The meeting in Guwahati is attended by delegates of about eight countries out of the total 20 countries under the G20 platform. Notable absentees were China, France, Germany and the UK.
Interestingly, the CAG has completed a Performance Audit Report on Conservation of Coastal Ecosystems specifically targeting the management of the coastal areas in India.
With a 7,517 km long coastline and an Exclusive Economic Zone of over 2 million square km, India has about 199 ports, including 12 major ports that handle approximately 1,400 million tons of cargo each year with the coastal economy sustaining over 4 million fishermen and other coastal communities.