In a joint effort to conserve coral reefs found along the Passekudah coast line, severely weakened due to the war, excessive fishing, illegal fishing means and waste dumping, the Maalu Maalu Resort & Spa together with the Wildlife Research and Conservation Trust (WRCT) launched a “Coral replanting program” and also opened a Coral Museum at the resort premises during the weekend.
The ‘Plant a Coral Project’ and the museum intend to create awareness on conserving coral reefs, biodiversity of the sea and uplift the livelihood of coastal communities.
According to WRCT, the coral replanting master plan for the country spans over 10 years, and the annual project cost is estimated to be around Rs. 5-8 million a year, depending on certain environmental factors.
This is one of many CSR activities that Maalu Maalu Resort & Spa has undertaken in the area. Chandra Wickramasinghe, Chairman of Maalu Maalu Resort & Spa has spearheaded this initiative and has taken a personal interest in this program. ‘Planting Coral for future generations as well as a step towards repairing the damage done in this beautiful location will truly make Passekudah a paradise’, Wickramasinghe said. ‘The Passekudah Bay is spellbinding in its beauty. But when the sunlight penetrates the water, you can see the broken coral. I wanted to help restore the rich marine diversity of the area leaving a Coral Heritage for future generations,’ he stressed.
After months of research and pilot projects, the first step was taken to create a natural sustainable coral reef through the ‘Plant a Coral’ Project. Realizing the importance of this task, Tokyo Cement has shown their support by providing concrete boulders, which are used in replanting corals. Coral with a fast growing rate are given priority to be planted with a specialized cement mixture. Secondly, slow growing corals are used in between the first set of corals, which are planted.
Prof. K.B. Ranawana of the Peradeniya University said there are both ecological as well as economic benefits of preserving corals. “A coral reef is similar to a rainforest under the ocean and if properly nurtured can be re-grown to its prior form. Coral replanting is a complicated process and there has to be maximum attention paid on the replanted corals for at least 2-3 years. Any conservation program fails when there is no collective effort,” Prof. Ranawana pointed out.
The calm and beautiful Passekudah Bay located about 28 kilometers north of Batticaloa town contains shallow fringing coral reefs towards the outer bay with scattered coral communities within the Bay. This attracts local and foreign visitors in large numbers particularly during the nonmonsoonal period from April to November. Visitors can observe the reefs and fish from fiberglass boats operated by the fisher folk.
Meanwhile, the Coral Museum housed by Maalu Maalu Resort and Spa in Passekudah is the first museum dedicated to the marine sector in the country. Special invitees from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Peradeniya University, Tokyo Cement as well as villagers from nearby fishing villages and school children were present to witness the opening of this unique facility.