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UNDP Provides Equipment for Thai Coral Clean-up

UNDP Provides Diving Equipment for Thai Coral Clean-up

Volunteer Divers to clear tsunami debris -- from deck chairs to kitchen sinks

11 January, Bangkok, Thailand -- A joint assessment mission conducted this week by The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), The World Bank and The Food and Agricultural Organization has prompted UNDP to provide clean-up equipment to help rehabilitate coral reefs off Thailand’s coast affected by the December 26 tsunami. Heavy debris, from deck chairs to kitchen sinks, are putting coral in harms way.

Equipment including a vehicle and boat trailer, rubber speed boat, GPS, diving gear, underwater cameras and underwater lift bags will be delivered to the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) to begin immediate work on affected areas.

“We’ve seen suitcases, kitchen sinks, deck chairs and hotel backwash sitting on the reefs,” says Hakan Bjorkman, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP in Thailand. “This kind of unusual debris calls for special clean-up care. We are working quickly to get the Department of Marine Resources the tools they need to clear these reefs. Coral reefs along the Andaman coast are not only a habitat for marine life, essential to the livelihoods of local fishermen, they are also a crucial source of income for the Thai tourism industry,” says Mr. Bjorkman.

The Department has also asked for help in mobilizing 100 volunteer divers each Sunday for the next couple of months. The volunteer teams will help to clean up debris from coral along Thailand’s west coast. They will also carefully put the reef back in places where pieces have broken off.

The three-day Disaster Assessment Mission conducted in conjunction with the DMR found that on average 5 percent of the coral reefs along the coast and around the main tsunami affected islands have been damaged.

The team found that main problem areas include South Patong Beach in Phuket with 20 percent damage, and Koh Pai and Rana Bay in the Phi Phi Islands with 40-50 percent damage. It was also noted that the Similan Islands suffered extreme sedimentation damage from sand displaced onto the corals. If not cleaned, the heavy sand will eventually kill these corals.

The assessment team concluded that future development of sustainable eco-tourism and the recovery and diversification of livelihoods in fishing communities will rely heavily on the restoration and protection of coral reefs. The Department of Marine Resources has recommended that all affected coral reefs be made off limits for recreational diving for several years.

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