11 November 2005

India: Scuba cell and reef research team founded

The Nagercoil based Institute for Environmental Research and Social Education (IERSE) has started a SCUBA cell and formed a reef research team to study the bio-diversity of seas and oceans using the Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) diving method on south west and south east coasts, from Kanyakumari to Goa, said Dr Lazarus, chairman of the IERSE, and former scientist of CMFRI, Cochin, here.

Explaining the salient features of the project, Lazarus told Express that the bio-diversity of marine environment has been studied in detail in many parts of the world where SCUBA diving is popular.

The non-availability of suitable equipment such as SCUBA gear and technology had affected the study of coral reefs in Indian seas and oceans. Fishing nets also damaged the reefs, which serve as ideal habitat for marine life.

The Scuba cell of the IERSE had over a period of time documented 50 rare Indian species of fish living in underwater rocks and coral reefs, he said and added that marine environment harbours a variety of flora and fauna.

Though scientists have documented some of them systematically, many are yet to be explored and identified properly, he said.

Although SCUBA diving was originally invented for exploring the oceans, it is now a favourite recreational tool for eco-tourists to enjoy the beauty of the underwater life.

Cataloguing of marine life, by direct observation in the natural environment without making any disturbance to the marine fauna, was best done through SCUBA diving to shed new light on the unexplored marine flora and fauna and to study marine bio-diversity, he said.

Preservation of coral reefs was necessitated for augmenting the marine wealth, as the coral reefs and underwater rocks serve as habitat for millions of marine species.

Coral reefs also function as natural barriers during marine calamities such as tsunami and tidal waves.

The damage to the coastline of Thoothukudi was minimised due to coral reefs, which served as barriers against the killer waves, Lazarus said.

He also said the coral reefs would get affected by the dredging undertaken in Sethusamudram canal and there is a possibility of 'sedentary organisms' such as corals perishing en masse, due to sedimentation caused by dredging.

Corals have no protective cover and were highly vulnerable sea life. An expert committee should ensure that the dredged debris is properly disposed of and corals protected during the implementation of the project.

The IERSE has carried out a number of underwater surveys in the south west and south east coasts of India and recorded a number of fish and invertebrates, which are new to the Indian waters.

The institute also imparts training in SCUBA diving to interested persons such as zoologists, and pharmaceutical personnel in the identification of fishes and other marine life for bio-technological research.

The facility is also open for all who want to get to the bottom of the sea in search of non-living materials, Lazarus added.

The inaugural function of the SCUBA cell held here on Wednesday was attended by a diving scientist from Miami, U.S.A, Robert D Sluka, naturalist Robert Grubh and other leading marine scientists.

Source: www.newindpress.com


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