The National Centre for Coastal Research’s (NCCR) proposal of dropping ‘melted plastic rocks or slabs’ on the seabed for growing coral reefs and address the problem of disposal of plastic waste drew flak from the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, which has been implementing coral rehabilitation programme since 2002.
Officials and scientists involved in marine research expressed apprehensions that the NCCR’s ‘innovative idea’ for the growth of marine organisms like algae for coral reefs building would destroy the existing coral reef colonies, and opposed use of the GoM region for field tests.
The NCCR had also suggested that plastic waste materials could simply be wound around as hard substrates as a way of disposing of them and help build coral colonies. The research institute preferred the GoM region, one of the four coral reef areas in the country, for field testing the ideas.
Scientists, preferring anonymity, said worn out tyres were tried as artificial reefs in Florida and Costa Rica, but they turned out to be disastrous. The clustered old tyres initially attracted many marine organisms but they later collapsed and littered beaches.
Corals in the GoM were already stressed and bleached under climate change and the NCCR’s idea would turn the reefs into graveyards. The structures might support proliferation of algae in the beginning, but would destroy corals eventually, the scientists said.
Officials in the GoM Marine National Park said they had not received any communication from the NCCR for field tests. Any test, study or research would be allowed only with the permission of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, they said.
T. Shanmugaraj, Scientist at NCCR’s Field Research Centre in Mandapam, which was monitoring the health of corals in the GoM region, said the idea was at the nascent stage and the NCCR would proceed only after consulting experts in the Central Institute of Plastics and Engineering and Technology. “The NCCR has no immediate plan for field tests in the GoM region,” he added.