31 March 2011
Gaia Discovery is embarking on a series of environmental projects in Southeast Asia, starting with coral gardening and assisted reef restoration programmes. It seeks the participation of scuba divers from around the world to join its scheduled group trips beginning 14 May 2011.
For a start, it has partnered with Gili Eco Trust and Big Bubble resort and dive centre to spruce up existing coral reefs and lay new ones at Gili Trawangan, Indonesia. Through this initiative, the island will have new coral reefs that will provide shelter for fish, encourage new fish growth, promote marine biodiversity and prevent beach erosion. The programmes benefit the island's fishing industry and marine tourism that are under threat due to environmental pollution, climate change and warming temperatures.
“We have been reporting on the environmental outlook in Asia through Gaia Discovery with special interest on threatened marine environments. Going a step further, we now provide opportunities for people to care for marine environments through personal involvement and positive action,” said Mallika Naguran, publisher of Gaia Publications and Managing Director of Gaia Discovery Eco Solutions.
Mallika, a sustainability consultant and keen scuba diver, elaborated on the programme’s rationale. “Most of the time, scuba divers are warned not to touch anything underwater for fear of harming marine creatures or themselves. This contributes to a sense of helplessness even apathy towards the plight of corals facing stresses. They don’t realise that they can get involved and not just watch corals and sponges being displaced by extreme weather conditions, smothered by algae, gobbled by predatory creatures like Drupella snails or damaged by irresponsible fishing methods,” she said. She hopes the programme will convert leisure scuba divers into reef gardeners, and hopes to send the renewal message out to 1000 divers by 2012 end.
The dive trip will include presentations on ecology, responsible tourism, marine protection, reef gardening and restoration techniques involving Biorock® Technology. Scuba divers will be involved in the entire process of coral reef restoration – from the design and construction of a heavy steel frame structure, to laying it down beneath the sea where scattered broken coral fragments will be collected from the seabed and attached to the frame. Participants will receive a PADI certification for completing the Biorock® Specialty Course.
Corals are fragile animals. Coral reefs comprise less than a percent of the ocean floor yet they provide sustenance and natural habitats to nearly 25 percent of marine life. Reef collapse leads to fishery decline, depleting shoreline and reduced coastline buffer that in turn impacts negatively on beachfront properties, marine tourism, human lives and livelihoods.
Dr Thomas Goreau, President of the Global Coral Reef Alliance (a non-profit organisation that deploys Biorock® structures globally), describes the fragility of the marine ecosystem. “Coral reefs have been steadily vanishing for more than 60 years, but the pace of destruction has greatly accelerated in the last few years due to the impacts of global warming, new diseases, and land-based sources of pollution. Marine Protected Areas are helpless against such global threats unless the threats themselves are eliminated, something the world has no will to do at this time.”
“The only interim solution is to use methods that greatly increase coral growth rates and resistance to environmental stress. Biorock® Technology is the only method that does so, and it is crucial to apply it in as many places as soon as possible, as these threats will get much worse in the coming years,” he said.
Gili Trawangan has since 2004 resorted to drastic environmental measures to salvage its depleting coral reefs and eroding beaches and has to date put in place nearly 60 steel reef structures that form new marine habitats. Biorock® Technology involves passing a low voltage electrical current that helps fortify structures against rusting while increasing coral growth rate and resistance to environmental stress. This includes resistance to warming ocean waters that otherwise cause corals to bleach, a serious condition that would eventually kill them if not mitigated.
“We certainly can't save it all, but if we don't save all that we can, what will we have left?” said Dr Goreau, a renowned scientist who has been solving environmental crises with renewal methods for 20 years.
Saving some of these corals is Gaia Discovery’s mission. Part of the proceeds from these dive bookings go towards supporting Gili Eco Trust’ environmental programmes through the Gaia Discovery Restoration Fund. Gaia Discovery intends to take two groups: reef gardening activity involves 5 nights and 6 days while reef restoration programme will be held over 7 nights and 8 days, both starting from 14 May 2011.
Interested parties and corporations intending to ride on these programmes for their CSR projects should contact Gaia Discovery for further enquiries and rates. To minimise its impact on the environment, the trip involves purchase of carbon offsets for flight travel, accommodation at fan-operated guesthouses and has a no single-use plastic policy.
The Global Coral Reef Alliance is a small non-profit organization dedicated to growing, protecting and managing the most threatened of all marine ecosystems—coral reefs. It focuses on coral reef restoration, marine diseases and other issues caused by global climate change, environmental stress and pollution. GCRA has successfully built vibrant marine environments globally by laying down Biorock structures http://www.globalcoral.org/
The Gili Eco Trust was set up in 2002 to support local efforts from SATGAS (local security) to protect the three Gili islands. The seven dive centres of Gili Trawangan reached an agreement with a local organization and began collecting a small fee from each diver. Through the Gili Eco Trust Eco Tax, each visitor or diver continues to help to conserve its recovering marine environment and help with new eco projects. Visit http://www.giliecotrust.com.
Big Bubble owns a resort, pool and dive centre on Gili Trawangan. Gili Trawangan is a tropical island located off Lombok in Indonesia. Visit www.bigbubblediving.com.
Gaia Discovery is Asia’s premier online eco-tourism publication. It celebrates the eco life with readers from 100 countries daily www.gaiadiscovery.com. The Gaia Guide is an annual information guide on ecotourism. Gaia Discovery Eco Solutions helps businesses run sustainable operations and green events. www.gaiadiscovery.com/eco-solutions .
Enquiries & Booking
Mallika Naguran - admin AT gaiadiscovery DOT com
Mobile: +65 9663 7289 Skype: malgaia