Fujairah coral project a community effort

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When industry or nature wreaks environmental havoc, there are those who launch protests and insurance claims, and others who get on with the job of mopping up and rebuilding.

If a

is anything to go by, many Fujairah residents are in the latter group.

Fujairah, the most picturesque of the UAE's seven emirates but also the poorest, has had its share of natural and man-made disasters. In 2007, a

ravaged its coast, on the Indian Ocean. The following year, a

took a massive toll on its fisheries.

have been a recurrent problem for the emirate, which is home to the world's second biggest

- a major refueling point for transoceanic shipping.

On top of that, there is global warming, which can kill coral directly by raising sea temperatures. Some believe it also does so indirectly by increasing the frequency of extreme weather phenomena and the toxic algal blooms that constitute red tide.

Due to all of these factors, Fujairah's coral reefs have recently taken a beating. That could add up to a major set-back to a relatively small economy that depends heavily on tourism, and particularly on local spending by recreational divers.

Instead of complaining,


got together last year to do something about the impending lack of coral, with enthusiastic backing from other Fujairah-linked businesses, individuals and the government.

"It is very much a community project," says Patrick Antaki, the general manager of the resort. "We're finding some good souls to help us out with funding. Everybody has come together: corporations, government and us."

Last week, a group of scuba-diving reporters, guests and photographers were invited to check on the eight-month old Fujairah "reef ball" project's progress. To view the video shot by our team at The National, click


Colonisation of the purpose built concrete structures is looking good.

Even better news is that the reef-ball project is not Fujairah's only initiative aimed at helping coral to regenerate. In another experiment, government scientists are attempting to

to repopulate damaged natural reefs in an approach that may also be tried on the reef balls.

The initiatives have come in the nick of time. Fujairah's oil related industry, from refineries to a new crude export terminal, is on the threshold of significant expansion, which can only add to the existing stress on the emirate's coral reefs unless rigorous preventative action is taken. To read about one such initiative, click



is also a big problem off the UAE's Gulf coast.

Fujairah, however, is already showing that community attitude can make a difference. This year, says Mr Antaki, "the water has been a lot cleaner than in many years; there has been less red tide; oil has been a lot less sighted; so things are looking up."

"You know how it goes in the UAE: things are done in the background, and then suddenly you say 'Oh yes, something has changed'," he adds.

Indeed, it seems that Abu Dhabi's government has long been signalling a need for environmental protection to its most important company, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). In its latest

, ADNOC highlights a coral reef preservation project, among other environmental initiatives. In the 2008 document, it also reports its lowest carbon dioxide emissions in five years.

There is no doubt that global warming and is being taken seriously here, whether or not it is linked to cyclones like the one that provided the impetus for Fujairah's reef-ball project.

If anyone wants a reminder of what a cyclone (or hurricane) can do to a coastline, see below: