By Nicky Short
Oct 28, 2020
Scuba instructors, fishermen and even artists are just some of the folks in Bali whose livelihoods have been washed out by Covid. We visitors depend on them to bring the best of the Island of the Gods to life, and almost 100 percent of Bali’s economy has come to depend on international tourism. But with lockdown still in full effect, there’s a distinct lack of wanderlusters wondering at the underwater world.
So, as thousands of hotel staff and tourism operators cool their heels, the government has launched the sprawling 50-hectare Indonesian Coral Reef Garden to grow Bali’s marine scene and local opportunities with it. The waters around Nusa Dua, Sanur, Serangan, Pandawa and Buleleng—which have been some of those hit hardest by the pandemic—will soon be getting IDR111 billion (US$7.5 million) in new coral reefs in an attempt to recover from the -10.98 percent economic growth reported in Bali for August. It’s hoped that by coordinating with local village leaders, some 11,000 now out-of-work Balinese fishermen, dive operators and resort staff, among others, will be included in the project.
Accounting for tides, currents, conditions and various other factors, every spot requires particular handling, explains Dr. Miftahul Huda, director of marine services at the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries: “We determine the genus of coral suitable, and in every location we have different methods of coral transplantation.” Each community will be trained in the fitting technique for their turf, putting everyone’s existing sub-aquatic skills to good use.
While underwater sculptors will work with concrete bars and rock piles, fishermen and their boats will shuttle steel “reef stars” out to divers who’ll anchor them into the seabed for the Mars accelerated reef rehabilitation system (MARRS). Other teams will get busy passing a low-voltage electrical current through a submerged conductive structure, making seawater minerals crystallize into a hard skeleton called BioRock™, onto which coral attaches and grows quickly.
And, as the reefs flourish, they’ll continue to serve those coastal areas. “After completion, the coral gardens will be given to local communities, who could explore activities like diving and snorkeling,” says Permana Yudiarso, head of the Coastal and Marine Resources Management Agency in Denpasar. But while we all have our fins packed and ready, waiting to get back to everyone’s fave isle with baited (get it?) breath, the new Indonesian Coral Reef Garden could have other, non-tourism benefits, notably as marine research stations.
With the polyps of hope soon to be sown, we’re crossing our fingers for healthy growth of all kinds in Bali.