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After big talk, let’s tap blue economy



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After the high-profile conference on the blue economy in Nairobi this week, the question is: What next for Kenya? Arguably, the conference lived up to its billing.

High-sounding presentations, major commitments and huge sums of financial pledges were made. But the challenge is moving beyond the rhetoric to the execution of those grand plans.

At the centre of the dialogue was the question of effective and sustainable use of water resources. That survival of global economies depends on how well water masses are exploited.

There was a sense that blue economy became a buzzword with the understanding that water resources form the next frontier for wealth creation.

That oceans, seas, lakes and other water masses play a pivotal role in driving economies, but only if properly nurtured. This is a sobering proposition because other factors of production such as land are quickly getting exhausted.

The renewed interest in water management is fascinating. Water masses hold key to national and regional economies.

Agriculture, fisheries and maritime business are all contingent on proper water resource management. Often, however, the oceans, seas, lakes and rivers are mismanaged.

They are polluted and over-exploited, with devastating environmental and economic impacts. Changing climatic conditions, and especially, prolonged droughts, have adverse effects on aquatic resources.

The coast, for example, is a perfect illustration of poor management of these water fronts. Large industries discharge their effluents into the water.

Human activities such as illegal fishing or trawling deplete aquatic resources and destroy the ecosystem.

As the conference demonstrated the surest way to promote the blue economy is to formulate the right policies and laws. Neighbouring countries must work together to preserve water masses.

Also crucial is maritime security that enjoins countries to work in concert to guard against criminals that operate undercover in the oceans and seas.

Somalia’s coastland has for years been a risky stretch of the Indian Ocean due to pirates targeting cargo ships.

For Kenya, the conference should give an impetus to intensify conservation and proper management of water resources.

The ban on plastic bags was a first step in this journey and has proved beneficial.

However, continued use of plastic bags, indiscriminate logging and devastation of water catchment areas as well as pollution, remain major threats to water resources.

We need concrete actions to enable the country to maximise benefits that accrue from the blue economy.