Bangladesh and China keep cooperating on marine spatial planning during COVID-19 pandemic

Bangladesh and China keep cooperating on marine spatial planning during COVID-19 pandemic

DHAKA, Bangladesh and BEIJING, May 11, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — A commentary article from Teng Xin, Head of the Secretariat of the Marine Spatial Planning Academy supported by China Oceanic Development Foundation:

Bangladesh and China keep cooperating on marine spatial planning during COVID-19 pandemic
Bangladesh and China keep cooperating on marine spatial planning during COVID-19 pandemic

Despite enormous challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Bangladesh and China haven’t stopped cooperation in marine spatial planning. Through the cooperative project of remote sensing interpretation of human activities, focused on the protection and utilization of Bangladeshi coastal zone, the two countries have completed a series of research reports on coastal resource exploitation, urban development and industrial layout. These scientific findings will significantly promote the Blue Economy of Bangladesh, building a good foundation for the realization of Bangladesh’s Vision 2041.

Bangladesh has one of the most intricate coastlines in the world, with rich fishery resources and mangrove forests, most of which remain unexplored. The developed part is dominated by energy-intensive industries with heavy pollution. Shipbreaking industry, for instance, poses a huge threat to the sustainability of marine economic development due to its massive dust and engine oil emission. Thus, balancing the relationship between human activities and environmental protection is of great significance for Bangladesh. As a critical tool of scientific management of marine resources, marine spatial planning has received great recognition and investment from the country’s government.

Bangladesh values the “capacity building and technical assistance to the developing countries, ensuring inclusivity that no one is left behind” on marine scientific research, Rabab Fatima, ambassador and permanent representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations in New York, told United News of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh and China began international cooperation on marine spatial planning in 2017. Scientists from the two countries have jointly carried out a series of activities, including organizing technical seminars, launching training programs, and completing on-site investigations from Chattogram to Cox’s Bazar.

“With cooperation, Bangladesh can make the progress that China made in the past 30 years in significantly less time, ” said Teng Xin, Head of the Secretariat of the Marine Spatial Planning Academy supported by China Oceanic Development Foundation.

In June, 2018, Chinese scientists from National Ocean Technology Center were invited to attend the international seminar on the theme “Marine Legal System and Sustainable Marine Resource Management for Blue Economy” in Dhaka. In the following year, the administration of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Maritime University paid a visit to the Center. During the joint field researches, Chinese researchers have also brought multi parameter water quality monitor meters and quadrat frames to examine water quality and biodiversity in Bangladesh.

The achievements of these activities have contributed to the restoration of the marine ecosystem and the urban development in Bangladesh.

Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought great challenges to the cooperation between Bangladesh and China, suspending previous regular field surveys and academic exchanges.

Through trial and error, the two countries figured a way out – focusing on the remote sensing interpretation of human activities for the protection and utilization of Bangladeshi coastal zone. This endeavor mainly relied on the manual decoding of remote sensing images provided by satellites and was thus less restricted by the pandemic.

This project will provide a better knowledge of the distribution of natural resources as well as the geographical layout of existing industries along Bangladeshi coasts. With this knowledge, researchers from two countries planned to design a system which lists the dos and don’ts for marine resource management in each specific area.

“Bangladeshi government can refer to these advices to make scientific decisions on how to manage marine resources and develop blue economy,” said Teng Xin.

Polluting enterprises such as furniture factories and steel plants, which need not be built near the coastline, will be given more careful consideration, while nuclear power plants, which are environmentally friendly and rely on sea water for condensation, will be encouraged to locate along the coasts in the future, according to Teng.

Combining research with economic development is the primary goal of BangladeshChina cooperation on marine spatial planning. Researchers from the two countries have also looked into the investment plans of about 50 Chinese enterprises that are interested in the Bangladeshi market.

These companies, if located as designed, will help Bangladesh  optimize the allocation and utilization of resources, upgrading its industrial structure and developing marine economies, which will finally enhance the well-being of local people. 

Bangladesh is a key hub connecting East Asia and South Asia, occupying a strategic position in BangladeshChinaIndiaMyanmar Economic Corridor. Its biggest port city, Chattogram, is also a significant node for Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.

With the determination to scientifically manage marine resources, Bangladesh considers its cooperation with China in marine spatial planning to be beneficial for the developments of blue economy conducive to both Bangladesh’s long-term goal of becoming a developed country in 2041 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. This win-win cooperation will also benefit the economic development in Asia in general as well.