Are businesses doing enough to protect the blue economy?

Top government officials and experts from across the world have expressed concerns over the continued pollution of water resources such as oceans, seas, lakes and rivers, saying that they are under threat despite their immense importance in economic development.

Experts argue that improper marine management is resulting in negative effects such as overfishing with losses from the fishery sector amounting to about $50 billion annually while poor ocean management practices lead to losses of about $200 billion a year.

They were speaking on Monday during the launch of the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference that’s underway in Nairobi, Kenya.

Blue economy is generally considered to encompass the sustainable use and conservation of the oceans, seas, lakes, rivers and other water resources.

The three-day global conference brings together about 4000 participants, including heads of state, experts and academia.

It was organised by the Government of Kenya in partnership with Canada and Japan.

It was observed that, despite the immense positive impact water resources have on mankind, little is being done to protect them from man-made activities.

About eight million tonnes of plastics are dumped into oceans which later become micro plastics that pollute food chains and impacte ecosystems as well as animals and humans, according to experts.

While opening the conference, President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyata said the blue economy is faced with a lot of challenges that need to be jointly addressed.

“The blue economy binds us to the common destiny. Oceans are the heart of our planet, they contain 97 per cent of the earth’s water, supply nearly half of the oxygen we breathe, absorb over a quarter of the carbon dioxide we produce and regulate the weather and temperature,” Uhuru said

He also said that water resources globally support livelihoods and food security and nutrition and employment.

90 per cent of maritime trade and transportation counteracts the impacts of climate change as carbon reservoirs, he added.

“Unfortunately, we have paid inadequate attention to the impact of human activities on the earth and productivity of our waters. As a result, many of the ocean systems are under stress,” he said

“We have convened here today to commit to innovative and transformative ways of using and sustaining our oceans, seas, lakes and rivers. We know that unless our environmental riches are protected, there can be no lasting prosperity for any of us,” the Kenyan president noted 

He also stressed the need for all governments and partners to avail financial resources, capacity building and transfer of technology toward blue economy.

Claver Gatete, Rwanda’s Minister for Infrastructure, said that the meeting comes at a time when prevailing conditions affecting global resources are worsening.

He said that Rwanda has committed to play a role in promoting blue economy.

Over the last two decades, he told the gathering, the Government has been investing a lot in environmental conservation, mainly by protecting water bodies and catchments against soil erosion and banning the use of plastic bags.

“The new National Transformation Strategy envisions a Rwanda that is green and committed to promoting sustainable blue economy, especially by developing water resource-based renewable energy and navigations in our lakes and rivers,”

In a bid to assess how natural resources are contributing to the national economy, the Government has embarked on the development of national capital accounting for water resources as well as promoting research and incorporating water resources into the National Strategy for Transformation, Gatete said

“The cabinet meeting last week adopted the establishment of the National Water Resources Board, which is mandated to address critical incidents like water management and forecasting, forest restoration and erosion control, water storage development, water allocation efficiency and water recycling, among others,” he said

According to Hanna  Tetteh, the Director General of the United Nations Office in Nairobi, the world is losing oxygen, sea levels are rising while there is an increasing level of debris.

She said that such impacts pose a major problem to every marine animal, human beings, as well as global trade.

 The Sustainable Development Goal 14 seeks to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources sustainable development.