Building blocks in the ocean

Artificial reefs are being constructed underwater to provide a better habitat for marine life

The mere mention of coral reefs brings to mind the Andaman Islands, Thailand, or Australia. But did you know that our very own Puducherry is now home to an artificial coral reef that is thriving with marine life? It not only provides a safe habitat for fish, but gives divers and tourists an experience to remember. The huge rock arrangements that make up the coral reefs are now home to more than a million species of fish, that too just a three-hour drive from the city!

Aravind Tharunsri, Director, Temple Adventure, is one of the brains behind the artificial reefs. He says he came up with the idea because, “The nearest natural reefs are beyond 20-km so I wanted to create a reef close to the coast. Starting in 2007, we built the reef about 15 meters from the shore by handpicking the rocks to ensure suitability to marine life and pitching in Rs 3-5 lakhs from our pockets. Initially, nearby trawlers destroyed our arrangements,” he says. Over the years, fishermen have been educated about the use of trawlers.

The reef is built using steel rods, various structures made of cement and nearly ten tons of rocks and stones. “It took 20 of us divers, skilled labourers and boatmen to get this reef made. Today, we have 20-30 tourists coming to us every week to learn scuba diving. We have added an atmosphere to the seabed by sinking unused automobiles, and are in talks to sink an old Navy ship,” What’s the advantage of the reef for tourists and divers? Sushma Harini, a lawyer at the Madras High Court, answers “I tried scuba diving just a few weeks ago on a friend’s suggestion, and boy was I bowled over. It was a surreal experience walking, crawling and kneeling on the seabed, with many species like starfish, crabs and other fish.” Just last week, a whale shark was also spotted at the reef, as was a five-foot long grouper fish, barracudas, over a thousand batfish, lionfish, catfish and cuttlefish.

“The reason I appreciate this artificial reef being built, is because the real ones are dying,” says Dr. Manikanda Velu, Professor, Institute of Fisheries Technology. “Artificial reefs protect aquatic life since underwater organisms like adopting inanimate objects as their home.”

The reefs also provide camouflage against predators, the bacteria that stick onto the surface of the reefs act as natural cleaning agents and the algae growing along the reef serve as a good food resource for the fishes. This has been a win all around, for the environment as well as adventure tourism.

Next Story