THE part of the Bay of Bengal that should have been rightfully ours long ago has finally been proved to be ours. This has arrived in the shape of a verdict issued by the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration. Not only have we been awarded with a big chunk of the sea but also for the first time we are about to draw our own sea-map.
Aside from being given a fair deal with extended maritime boundary lines in both east and west and the outermost tip drawn in the south, we will now have to protect and correctly make use of our gains. True that the main arguments for arbitration focusing on the location of the land boundary terminus, delimitation of the territorial sea, exclusive economic zone, and the continental shelf within and beyond 200 nautical miles have been settled but we have to be prepared to capitalise on the potential largesse.
With an expanded sea boundary not only do we need to increase our naval strength and patrolling, but also need to ensure the safety and proper exploration of our hydrocarbon deposits. For increasing fishing resources we will have to go beyond our fixed limits with advanced deep sea trawlers and also keep vigil on others to prevent them from fishing in our zone.
Markedly, after delimitation of the maritime boundaries we should now proceed to carry out a general seismic survey at the Bay of Bengal. Also BAPEX and Petrobangla will have to prove their competence in terms of exploring off-shore blocks for oil and gas.
However, in light of the latest maritime verdict, our responsibilities for controlling our portion of the Bay has increased. Effective, responsible and co-ordinated efforts of the concerned authorities are needed for protecting our maritime boundary and its properties. And here, there is no room for indulging in complacency. We must move forward dynamically.
Bangladesh now legally possess 118,813 square km of waters comprising territorial sea and exclusive economic zones extending out to 200 nautical miles. Accordingly, it will have to bear the responsibility of protecting the sovereignty of its waters and be accountable for managing the contents.
The writer is Current Affairs Analyst, The Daily Star.