By Olga Amato
Science is giving the coral reef in Pemuteran, north Bali, a jolt. But don’t worry, it’s low-voltage direct current meant to bolster growth and reverse decades of destruction caused by reef bombing, cyanide fishing and global warming.
“Pemuteran right now is a popular scuba diving destination because its marvelous array of corals have created a haven for the ocean’s most colorful fish,” says Bramantyo Samodra Sier, head of marketing and promotions at Divemag Indonesia, the country’s most popular diving magazine. “But in the past it has been devastated by the bombing or cyanide fishing methods used by the many fishermen attracted to Pemuteran’s tranquil waters. Ruining the corals puts the whole underwater ecosystem at risk and that’s why Divemag Indonesia is so concerned about saving the corals.”
Using technology to help nature
Invented by marine scientists, Biorock is a process that uses low-voltage direct current electricity to grow solid limestone rock structures in the sea and accelerate the growth of corals.
Biorock projects can be found all over the world, including in the Pacific, Caribbean and Indian oceans, but the Biorock project in Pemuteran, installed in June 2000 and stretching 300 meters situated in an area of two hectares, is the largest Biorock center in the world.
But being the world’s biggest Biorock project isn’t cheap.
Luckily, ANZ Bank pitched in and helped give Pemuteran’s Biorock a financial boost.
Each steel structure costs Rp 5 million ($519) and ANZ’s corporate social responsibility program has donated four structures.
“It’s great to see companies willing to use their corporate social responsibility program to focus on Biorock,” said Tom Goreau, the Biorock co-founder, who was in Pemuteran on the day the ANZ-sponsored structures were installed. “With Biorock, the corals succeed to grow up to 50 times faster and can recover from physical damage.”
Goreau, who also serves as president of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, is now focused on training local people about Biorock to ensure the structures’ sustainability.
“Local people need proper detailed training so they can keep developing and maintaining the program. It’s the key to keep the Biorock project successful,” he said. “That’s the reason why we often have workshops and the next one is going to be from Nov. 12 to 18.”
Komang Astika, operational manager of the Biorock center, said word of the structures is spreading, and tourists are traveling to north Bali to see if electricity can really grow coral reefs.
“Bio rock is attracting tourists from all around the world,” Komang said. “Snorkeling and diving have been two of the most popular activities for tourists coming to Pemuteran. There are at least 50 tourists who come to Pemuteran every week just to see the Biorock.”
One of those tourists is Sue Dufall, a 51-year-old Australian who has visited Bali on numerous occasions.
“The first time I came to Pemuteran was just for sightseeing, but as soon as I found out about the Biorock I became passionate about it,” said Sue, who is planning to move to Bali when she retires. “I’m thinking about contributing to the Biorock by donating a structure. I love the atmosphere here, it seriously is a piece of paradise.”
Lending a helping hand
Divemag Indonesia, which is helping spread the news about Biorock to domestic divers and tourists, is excited about helping ANZ with their project.
“We’re excited about supporting ANZ’s initiative,” said Wening Nurtiasasi, a project liaison between Divemag Indonesia and ANZ. “The main purpose of Divemag is to let as many people as possible know about Biorock and how it is helping the environment here in Bali.”
ANZ is also very proud of their work to help restore the coral reefs.
“We are very supportive of these kind of projects, first of all, because we care about nature,” said Wira Budi Hartawan, ANZ regional head of eastern Indonesia. “Also, I believe that if we preserve more locations such as Pemuteran, it can help attract more tourists.”
And now everyone with a passion for the sea can contribute to the Biorock project.
For Rp 5 million, you can purchase a 2-meter-square structure, which you can design yourself, and two years of maintenance on the structure.
People who have designed their own structures have certainly been creative and now structures in various shapes from bicycles to goddesses can be seen.
The coral growing on the structures are certainly a beautiful phenomenon that can’t be missed.
Alternatively you don’t have to buy a whole structure. And for a Rp 350,000 donation, the Biorock team will put your name on a structure.
Biorock : www.biorockbali.webs.com