The government has taken the initiative to ensure proper reflection of the international laws and the judgments in the cases involving the delimitation of maritime boundaries of Bangladesh.
The government also has taken the plan to bring the emerging economy under legal structure aiming to boost the Blue Economy, Ocean Governance, Maritime Cooperation and the matters relating to the methods and discipline of marine scientific research, and to utilize the plethora of oceanic resources available across the Bay of Bengal.
As part of the plan, a fresh law has been designed named ‘The Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones Act, 2021’ which will replace the law that was formulated in 1974.
The Cabinet on May 3 this year approved the draft of ‘Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones (Amendment) Act, 2021’. An official of the foreign ministry said that the draft will likely be passed in the Parliament this year.
Talking to Bangladesh Post, Dr Mohammad Muslem Uddin, Chairman of the Oceanography Department of Chittagong University, said, “We don’t have a proper idea about our vast resources in the Bay. Our sea is still untouched. We don’t
have skilled manpower to extract our resources from the sea. We should generate skilled manpower to utilize the plethora in the Bay. We also should have a strong law. However, the 1974 law must be amended in the current perspective.”
The expert on oceanology and the blue economy said that the draft of the amended law should be finalised after taking opinions from the stakeholders so that a strong law can be formulated. “We are working on oceanology, but we don’t know about the draft,” he said.
Muhammad Anowarul Hoque, Secretary General of Save Our Sea, a marine conservation organisation, told Bangladesh Post, “If we think the future developed Bangladesh, there is no alternative to marine resources. Because, there will be no natural gas reserves in the next 10 years. Therefore, in order to meet the target of becoming a developed country by 2041, we have to look at tidal and wind energy from now on.”
About the law, Hoque said that the government has already called on all the countries that have developed using sea resources to work in Bangladesh. But foreigners have not shown interest here as the maritime law has not been amended and updated since the maritime boundary dispute was settled. “Against this backdrop, the maritime law should be updated. If the law is updated, Ocean Governance will also be ensured. Then Ocean Conservation Value, Biodiversity Assessment and many other research and practical activities will start in the Ocean Economy,” he added.
Foreign Ministry sources said that draft of the amended law includes guidelines on Ocean Governance, Blue Economy, Maritime Cooperation and specifically the provisions relating to the methods and discipline of Marine Scientific Research. A total of 35 new sections were incorporated in the fresh draft including the provision of criminal jurisdiction and civil jurisdiction in entry of foreign vessels and submarines into Bangladesh maritime boundary.
The draft discusses the economic zone. The Economic Zone is replaced by Exclusive Economic Zone in line with the definition of United Nations Convention on the Law of tthe Sea (UNCLOS-1982) in order to establish absolute sovereignty over the marine
boundary and its resources. The new draft includes provision for punishment for offences in Exclusive Economic Zone, Continental Shelf and Contiguous Zone.
The new draft proposes maximum three years imprisonment or a monetary fine of minimum Tk 2 crore and maximum Tk 5 crore for maritime pollution which was one-year imprisonment and Tk 5,000 fine in the old law.