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Monday November 4, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Monday November 4, 2013 MYT 9:17:09 AM
by chester chin
The artificial reef structure constructed in the waters of Pulau Soyak near Tioman provides a base for corals to grow. It was installed under a marine conservation project helmed by H2O Plus, Hume Cement and Marine Monkees. – SOO PHYE
Ailing reefs in Tioman get some care.
When Wong Meng Choy started doing recreational diving 20 years ago, the sea was different from what it is now. “The underwater environment then was really vibrant. I suppose it’s like Kuala Lumpur. If you were to compare the city in present day and in the past, many changes can be observed too,” he muses during our ferry ride from the mainland to Pulau Tioman, Pahang.
Along with 40 other scuba divers, we were making our way to the island for the Save Our Water Planet programme organised by H2O Plus and Hume Cement.
But if anything, Wong offered an apt analogy comparing cosmopolitan transformations to that of nature’s own deteriorating state. Unlike the varying conditions on land though, the variables in the ocean are often shielded from the eyes, thus making it more vulnerable to environmental problems.
“Water is the source of all living things. And when we talk about environmental concerns, we should start from where it all began which is the ocean,” says Wong, CEO of Luxor Beauty World, the distributor of H20 Plus products in Malaysia and Brunei.
The skincare brand is embarking on a marine conservation project involving building and restoring reefs around Malaysia with the aim of enhancing marine biodiversity.
“We truly hope that our baby step in this direction will galvanise a stronger movement towards better understanding of the need to protect our water planet,” Wong says.
The company hopes to build one reef a year. For starters, it partnered with Hume Cement to build an artificial reef in the waters of Pulau Soyak off Pulau Tioman.
It was Marine Monkees, a professional dive company and appointed project manager of the programme, that scouted the location for the placement of the artificial reef.
“When we were diving around the area, we found that the artificial reef constructed out of plastic pipes that was placed there a couple of years ago has crumbled,” says diving instructor Shonny Loh. Approval was obtained from the Marine Parks Department to implement the reef building initiative.
Mohamed Ridzuan Mohamed Alias, director of Pahang Marine Parks Department, commented that the location was ideal for placement of artificial reefs. “The waters off Pulau Soyak are rich with natural coral reefs. This will increase the growth rate of reefs on the structure,” he shares.
In terms of design and shape, Loh commented that the artificial reef was very solid. Taking after the shape of a double moon crescent, it is constructed out of 72 reinforced cement blocks that weigh 70kg each. The completed structure is 6.6m wide and 2.8m long.
Dive master Paul Lai, who came up with the design of the artificial reef, said that its half-circle design would be able to withstand strong water currents from any directions. The structure is designed with a wide base to endure rough sea conditions and at the same time, offer a spot for floating coral larvae to settle down and flourish. It is also vital that the pH level of the concrete blocks be kept at 8.3 so as not to interfere with the salinity of the surrounding waters.
“For this design, the blocks are cast in steel mould using concrete made by mixing aggregates, sand and cement with sufficient water to cause the material to set and bind,” says Quah Thain Khan, managing director of Hume Cement.
“Upon hardening, the blocks are removed from the mould and sent for curing using water sprays and covered to prevent loss of water to keep the blocks hydrated,” he adds.
The marine conservation programme was injected with some glitz and glam with the participation of local recording artist Aric Ho and the top three winners of Miss Scuba Malaysia 2013.
“It wasn’t easy assembling the concrete blocks under the ocean. However, I’m really happy that I’m able to contribute a small part to the preservation of the ocean,” says Ho who has been an avid diver for the past 17 years.
Friends Teng Ky-Gan and Giden Lim also shared Ho’s sentiments regarding the programme.
“It’s very rare to be able to say that you’ve helped built an artificial reef. I’m really glad to be part of this conservation initiative,” shares Teng.
As for Lim who took up diving this year, he believes that the marine conservation programme lends meaning to his new-found hobby.
“Diving can sometimes come across as a very individualistic activity. It’s a really interesting experience to be able to build something inside the water and give back to the environment.”
Tags / Keywords:
Environment, Pulau Soyak, Pulau Tioman, Marine conservation programme, Save our water planet, artificial reef
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