Context: The Union Cabinet has approved signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and South Asian Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP) for cooperation on the response to Oil and Chemical Pollution in the South Asian Seas Region.
The MoU intends to promote closer cooperation between India and other maritime nations comprising the South Asian seas region namely Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka for protection and preservation of marine environment in the region.
Indian Coast Guard (ICG) will be the Competent National Authority and national operational contact point for implementation of “Regional Oil Spill Contingency Plan” under the MoU and shall respond to oil and chemical spills on behalf of Government of India. Further, ICG Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCCs) will be the national emergency response centre for marine incidents.
In order to promote and support protection, management and enhancement of the environment in the South Asian region, the Governments of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka established the SACEP in 1982 in Sri Lanka.
The SACEP jointly with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) developed a “Regional Oil Spill Contingency Plan” to facilitate international co-operation and mutual assistance in preparing and responding to a major oil pollution incident in the seas around the Maritime States of Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Need for special attention:
South Asia is one of the most diverse regions in the world. Bordered to the north by the Himalayas and to the south by the Indian Ocean, covers a diversity of ecosystems from lush tropical forest to harsh, dry desert. It is also one of the most populous regions, with over 1 billion people living in India alone.
- Most of the South Asian nations share many similar environmental problems, stemming from poverty and its consequences on natural resources. According to the World Bank, during the past decade, South Asia has been the second fastest economically growing region in the world, and their efforts at increased production have put increasing pressure on natural resources and the environment.
- Significant natural resource concerns of the region include depletion of water quality and quantity, dwindling forests and coastal resources, and soil degradation resulting from nutrient depletion and salinization.