22nd May has been observed as the International Biological Diversity day globally with the theme of 'Mainstreaming Biodiversity; Sustaining People and their Livelihoods' with a view to increasing awareness of biodiversity issues.
Marine biodiversity is the variety of life in coastal and ocean environments. Bangladesh is a maritime nation having a large maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal; especially after two historical legal victories with India and Myanmar. The region is very familiar and important for marine biodiversity. The Bay of Bengal has a large diversity of cetaceans. The highly productive tip of 'the Swatch of No Ground' has been identified as a cetacean hotspot with a relatively high abundance of at least four small and one large cetacean species. Flora and fauna is an important component of marine diversity in the Bay of Bengal.
Marine biodiversity is very much important for Bangladesh as it is going to build up Blue economy based on its marine resources. Our coastal zone contains distinctive development opportunities that can be instrumental in reducing the vulnerability and poverty of coastal communities and can contribute significantly to the national development with diversity of natural resources. In recent years, Bangladesh coastal areas received international attention due to its high potential for exploitation of both onshore and offshore natural gas.
The main reason for loss of marine biodiversity is largely the result of human activity either from land based activities or sea based activities by oil, chemicals, and harmful substances in packaged form, sewage, and garbage. Unsustainable consumption is another vital issue to be threat for marine biodiversity.
In case of marine biodiversity, we cannot but thinking of those legal protection. There are two types of legislation to protect and preserve marine biodiversity; international and municipal. There are a number of international legal instruments responding with the protection and conservation of Marine biodiversity such as the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea, 1982(UNCLOS –III); International Convention on Biological Diversity,1992; International Convention on Oil Pollution,1990; Basel Convention on the Control of Trans boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal; International Convention on Civil Liability for Pollution of Sea by Oil, 1969; and International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973. Bangladesh has ratified almost all of them which create compulsory obligation to protect and preserve marine biodiversity.
Bangladesh has some legislation to protect environment generally. But there has no uniform law to respond with Marine biodiversity in an integrated manner. Some of the laws concerning marine pollution are scattered, partial and backdated defective to coup with the new challenges of marine biodiversity. For example, the Port Act 1908 which is much backdated. Bangladesh adopted the Environmental Action Plan in 1992 focuses on coastal and marine environment but the action plan was not appropriate and integrated. The Environment Conservation Act (ECA) of 1995 (amended 2010), followed by the Environment Conservation Rules (ECR) of 1997, is now the umbrella environmental legislation that provides for overall environmental conservation of the country. But the legislation is general in nature for overall environment and not specifically for the protection of Marine biodiversity. The above mentioned laws are not adequate enough for implementing the international conventions ratified by Bangladesh concerning marine pollution and marine biodiversity. Moreover, Bangladesh has prepared its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) which contains neither any suggestion to adopt an integrated marine policy nor any legislation to protect and preserve marine biodiversity specifically.
Bangladesh government has emphasised on sustainable Blue economy based on marine resources as the only alternative to our land based resources. It would never be possible to ensure a sustainable blue economy in Bangladesh unless and until it can take an effective marine policy as well as integrated legislation to protect marine biodiversity. We believe that the stake holders are aware of the fact and would be much active to unite us for a marine policy and legislation to give us a environment conscious nation.
The writer is a Faculty of Law, Department of Maritime Law & Policy, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Maritime University Bangladesh.