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Saturday, October 13, 2012
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Corals in peril

Global warming, unplanned tourism hit Saint Martin's Island hard

The underwater photos recently taken by Sharif Sarwar show dying and colourless corals of St Martin's Island. Increasing human activity there is putting a stress on the marine life. Photo:Courtesy

Corals under water around Saint Martin's Island are being destroyed by global warming, over exploitation and unplanned tourism.

Many of these now appear colourless and dead, said Anisuzzaman Khan, former biodiversity expert of International Union for Conservation of Nature, Bangladesh and Dubai municipality, who recently dived on the coral reef 22 feet under water around the island.

Ocean acidification and rise in sea temperature, both linked to global warming, cause corals to expel the algae that are photosynthetic and live within their tissues and upon which their survival depends as they exist together in a symbiotic relationship.

With the expulsion of the algae, corals lose colour and appear white, which is called coral bleaching.

This phenomenon cannot be controlled locally, he said, but the government can still play a role to save corals as coastal development and human activities causing pollution and sedimentation exacerbate the effects of climate change.

The Saint Martin issue should be given attention soon since 25 percent of all marine life depends on corals, Anisuzzaman added.

Corals, alive (soft) or dead (hard), provide protection and shelter for many different species of fish. Without coral reefs, fishes would have nowhere to live and spawn eggs.

Coral bleaching was first noticed at Saint Martin in 1998, Prof M Maruf Hossain of Institute of Marine Sciences and Fisheries, Chittagong University, said, "But we are yet to take any measure to save them."

Frequent tourist ships traveling to and from the island smother corals with layers of silt, biodiversity experts who dived in the water of the island said. Anchors dropped from the ships often hit the corals, damaging them, which restricts their further growth.

Besides, extraction of corals has increased for commercial purposes, which needs to be stopped immediately.

The coral species near the jetty at the island were almost ruined, said Anisuzzaman.

Bangladesh has around 65 species of coral, said Prof Maruf, who has been working on corals for years.

"But we do not even know of their distribution."

The government should follow other South Asian countries, like Sri Lanka, to save corals, Maruf said, adding Sri Lanka had stopped human interventions and replaced bleached or damaged corals with live ones to facilitate their growth.

As many as 94 species of fish are dependent on corals, Maruf said.

An urgent monitoring programme is required to save these precious marine resources of Saint Martin, experts say.

The temperature of the Bay of Bengal has significantly increased in the last four decades, raising acidification in the water and destroying many of the 22 species of corals available there, scientists say.

Exactly 0.45 degree celsius temperature has increased in the last 40 years, Ahsanuddin, a former reviewer of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said.

Excessive carbon dioxide emission that contributes to climate change also raises acidification in the ocean, albeit very low, but enough to destroy sensitive corals, he said.

It was learnt from several divers that honey comb corals on the east coast of Saint Martin are severely affected by coral bleaching.

The reef of Saint Martin is situated in the extreme southern part of Bangladesh, with more than 700 species of seaweed, corals, fish and other marine life forms.

Though the island was declared to be an ecologically critical area in 2003, no government agency has made an effort to conserve ecological resources in and around the island. On top of that, growing numbers of tourists are polluting and damaging the natural habitats of many species.

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Environment Ministry could underscore to preserve the coral reefs for our sustain our bio-diversity.Polluters wreak havoc the corals than tourists shiip.To pullulate the algae for several underwater species we need to accentuate their sanctuary not the destruction.Our acuatic species are uncharacteristically on the wane.

: Nasirullah Mridha,USA

The crux of the matter is over population, gradual rise in the standard of living, and limited number of tourist spots within. St Martin's Island (together with Chheradip) being the only coral island of the country is an interesting destination for tourists, especially to students and town and city dwellers. The rush of visitors contaminates the surroundings and is depleting the coral resources (by bringing in pieces as souvenirs). Other weighty reasons for the decay of coral life may be sought, as stated, to processes like global warming and lack of nurturing coral life as in Sri Lanka and other maritime countries. The relevant departments of the concerned ministry must scrutinise the matter urgently so that biodiversity can be maintained in the coral islands of the Bay.

: Iftikhar-ul-Awwal


  • Misbah uddin
    Saturday, October 13, 2012 06:39 AM GMT+06:00 (174 weeks ago)

    Saint Martin is the only one coral island in Bangladesh. Tourists visit Saint Martin because of its natural attraction. Each and every tourists try to gather coral as a souvenir. That's why corals are declining day by day. If the government ensure sustainable tourism development as well as world's leaders control Global Warming, then this destination will be one of the best money maker in Bangladesh.

  • Sarwar, Riyadh
    Saturday, October 13, 2012 01:12 AM GMT+06:00 (174 weeks ago)

    But the government is very busy with NOTHING!





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